by: Sarah Rosario Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There is a warning for parents sending students off to college after reports show sexual assaults are on the rise.
Experts said it’s because of new rules designed to get victims to report the crimes.
The Department of Justice said one in five women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted and as many as 95 percent of the cases go unreported.
"I feel like most people don't feel comfortable with it,” said UNC-Charlotte sophomore Sierra Stone.
Starting this school year, the federal government is requiring colleges to do more to encourage students to report crimes.
They are encouraging schools to host awareness campaigns and make it easier for students to report assaults.
Johnson C. Smith student Leanne Pick said she has always felt safe there.
“We’re a very small campus, so if anything happens we know about it instantly,” she said. “All of our campus police numbers are on the back of our ID cards.”
UNC-Charlotte Police Chief Jeff Baker showed Channel 9 the alert that flashes across every school computer when a crime is reported on his campus.
Depending on the severity of the crime, sirens go off too.
These protective measures are federally mandated for all colleges and universities as part of what's known as the Clery Act. It requires colleges to compile a report listing all campus crimes and publicize it on the school's website.
“This is something we take very seriously, in fact, two years ago we created a position for a Clery lieutenant," Baker said.
Lt. Shawn Smith is that officer. When reports come in, part of his job is to make sure campus police respond right away.
"Typically we can get across campus in less than five minutes, no matter what day it is,” Smith said.
Smith compiled crime logs for 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The university also keeps an eye on crimes at other local campuses, including Queens University and JCSU.
Among those schools, Channel 9 found a handful of sexual assaults reported each year, but the numbers are expected to rise this year.
Starting this fall, the Clery Act will require colleges to log all domestic violence, dating violence and stalking reports.
The new stats will fall under sexual assaults, which Smith said could lead to some misunderstanding.
"The mother called me, and asked me these questions and I told her the uptick was from education of reporting," Smith said.
Pick said although the new rules will reflect an increase in crimes, they'll also show something is being done about it.
"I think that parents might be concerned but at the same time they'll know that there is a culture where we're not afraid to talk about it, and not afraid to address it when it does come up,” Pick said.
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