by: Torie Wells Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - On beautiful, quiet campuses across the country, education is sometimes interrupted by crime.
“This is a second home for me, so I want to be safe at my home,” said Tierra Matthews, a college student.
A law named for Jeanne Clery aims to keep students safe. In 1986, Clery was raped and murdered in her dorm at LeHigh University, by another student she didn’t know.
Eyewitness News spoke with Abigail Boyer of the Clery Center for Security on Campus. She said Clery’s parents pushed for the law because they felt there wasn’t enough information about crime on campus.
“She always says, ‘I didn’t know how I was going to change things, I just knew there needed to be change,’” said Boyer as she spoke about Jeanne Clery’s mother.
Now, the law requires schools to send out timely alerts about safety issues on campus and to make crime logs and crime reports public.
Eyewitness News looked through those reports from colleges and universities in our area. Over the past three years, we found no murders recorded. But there have been sex offenses, robberies, aggravated assaults and burglaries.
As Eyewitness News started asking about the numbers, we realized the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
In March, Eyewitness News told you about a Winthrop student who police say was choked, then carjacked. In April, police said a UNC Charlotte student was shot in the neck. Both happened near, but not on campus.
UNC Charlotte Police Chief Jeff Baker and Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis said those won’t show up on next year’s report. They happened outside the Clery Act reportable area.
Eyewitness News asked if they thought that area should be expanded to by law for more accurate information.
“Unless the cities or county are willing to cooperate and share that info, you may never get it and right now, they aren’t mandated,” Zebedis said.
He suggests checking local police department numbers, not just the school’s, and talking with campus security if you have questions about crime on campus.
For example, when Eyewitness News asked Belmont Abbey about two arsons it reported, we were told they were from carelessly discarded cigarettes that cause little to no damage.
“Inside all numbers, you have to understand they represent a case report and investigation,” Baker said. “It’s to not only alert of crime, but it’s also to help prevent and create programs.”
Each security report should explain what safety programs are on campus.
At UNC Charlotte, an international audit of crime reporting was done. Officers do foot patrols and a female sex assault detective was hired to encourage reporting.
At Winthrop, officers patrol on and off campus, a victim advocate has been hired and a laptop theft prevention program decreased stolen laptops by 80 percent.
The Clery Center said that’s the real goal -- to not just report numbers, but increase education and dialogue about crime prevention.
“Really focusing on that so we can make sure everyone is on the same level so they are all using best practices to keep students safe,” said Boyer.
Here are some links to security reports and numbers from some local schools.
UNC Charlotte has more than 26,000 students.
Eyewitness News asked UNC Charlotte Police Chief Jeff Baker what the school does to decrease sex offenses on campus. He said the school has worked to educate students about prevention and reporting.
Eyewitness News asked about a spike in burglaries in 2010. Baker said they analyzed why that happened and identified that students were leaving their doors unlocked. The police department stepped up an education campaign and numbers dropped.
He said they are always working to decrease numbers, but said this about the current numbers: “Those are very low numbers and that speaks for our programs, engagement with the community.”
He said officers use traffic enforcement; foot beats and closely monitors areas like the gym where people from off campus will gather.
Eyewitness News asked if he had any idea what the numbers in 2012 will look like. He said burglaries look about the same as 2011, but he expects an overall crime reduction.
CPCC has approximately 19,000 full-time, degree-seeking students on six campuses.
Eyewitness News asked about a hate crime that was reported in 2011 and was told that “graffiti of a racist nature found in restroom; included the word ‘hate.’”
CPCC Public Information Officer Jeff Lowrance also emailed a statement saying, “The college periodically reminds students each semester to take safety precautions, such as don’t walk alone at night, don’t leave valuable items in sight in parked vehicles, report any activity that is odd or suspicious as soon as possible, get to know classmates and instructors so we can watch out for each other, etc. Campus Security will provide students and employees an escort to their parked vehicles at any time. Students and employees who want to report odd or suspicious activity or observe a crime in progress can call, email and text their report/tip.
We want students and employees to have as much information as possible. The more students and employees know, they better they can make good, safe decisions and contribute to the college-wide effort of making our college as safe as it can be. This type of information empowers students and employees to take proactive steps.”
Johnson and Wales:
In 2011, the school says the enrollment was 2,536.
In October 2011, Eyewitness News told you about seven robberies in the same area, near Johnson and Wales University, within a matter of months. We asked why all of those were not recorded on the report.
Michael Quinn, the executive director of Campus Safety and Security for Johnson and Wales University sent a statement saying, “If you take a look at the 2011 Clery Handbook you may find it a somewhat complicated review process for preparing crime statistics. The campus security authority must review each crime reported to campus security and determine if the incident occurred within the Clery reportable area for the campus. Further, crimes reported to the local police must be sought out and compared to those reported to campus security to add to the count or, conversely, avoid duplicate counting.
With regard to the 2011 robberies you referenced here, such an assessment of these incidents by the campus security authority on campus resulted in a determination that only one took place within the geographic area defined in the 2011 Clery Handbook for the purpose of reporting same in the annual security report.”
Quinn did say students received alerts about the other incidents to make sure they were aware of what was going on.
Eyewitness News spoke with Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis about how the school works to prevent sex offenses on campus. He said work is being done to increase awareness about prevention and reporting. The school has hired a victims’ advocate to work with those who have been assaulted or abused. He said that there has not been an unknown assailant attack on campus since 2001, and that crime was solved.
Eyewitness News asked about burglaries and he said that if a student leaves their room unlocked and someone walks in and takes something, that is considered a burglary. To cut down on burglaries and larcenies, the school used bike baiting programs and started a computer theft prevention program. He said bike thefts have decreased 70 percent and laptop thefts have decreased 80 percent.
Zebelis pointed out that the school posts its crime log online to be transparent. And he said it sends out alerts, not just for things that happen on campus, but also nearby off-campus crimes that students should be aware of.
Just over 1,700 students were enrolled in 2011.
Eyewitness News asked the campus police chief about burglaries in 2010 and 2011. Chief Shane Starnes responded with an email saying, “This report was generated from a single incident where person(s) gained entry to one dorm hall over Christmas break that year. All students were notified and measures taken to increase security so that this could not happen again.” He said that locking and surveillance systems were updated.
He said there have been no reports of burglaries so far this year.
“The Abbey prides itself on the level of security it provides to our students, faculty and staff so they may be comforted by a peace of mind that is conducive to learning, growing and working in a safe and secure environment,” said Starnes.
Wingate University Campus Safety Chief Mike Easley emailed Eyewitness News, saying the school works closely with the Wingate Police Department and the Union County Sherriff’s Office to keep students safe.
Wingate has eight 911 call boxes located in central areas of the campus to help students and faculty report crime.
He said that Campus Safety notifies students about incidents on campus by email, the schools homepage, a siren system, cell phone alerts and direct on-foot notifications.
Enrollment was 2,513 in 2011.
A spokesperson for Queens University said the schools works to reduce crime by incorporating education and awareness programs.
“Through our ‘Queens Safe Initiative Programs,’ we provide students the facts needed to help themselves and help each other stay safe. Via student texts and emails, we remind them of the availability of our programs throughout the year. We also provide sessions at New Student Orientation and quite recently had Brett Sokolow, an attorney and nationally recognized authority on sexual assault, speak on our campus. More than half of our traditional undergraduate students attended,” said a spokesperson for Queens University.
That person also said that a program was put into place to stress the importance of locking doors and securing valuable in cars and that cut down on burglaries on campus from 2009 to 2011.
Total enrollment of almost 1,300 a year.
Eyewitness News asked the school about aggravated assault numbers and Ben Smith, the dean of students, emailed saying, “Our 2011 aggravated assault numbers were recently updated in consultation with the Department of Education office as we realized that, given the nature of the violations, all of these would more properly be categorized in the simple assault category.”
He also said the college works to be proactive in fighting crime. This year, Public Safety went into resident halls and registered electronics. The school also offered sexual assault information sessions to students on top of regular safety programs.
Eyewitness News asked Appalachian State about sex offense allegations made against football players in 2011 and were told that those allegations were not included in the report. Appalachian State University Police Chief Gunther Doerr said, “Those incidents were reported to have occurred off-campus and the geographic locations did not meet the Clery Act reporting criteria.”
Eyewitness News was told that the university is working hard to address the issues around sex offenses and was pointed to this website: http://www.appcares.appstate.edu
Doerr also said, “I think having a report that shows ALL crime that happens on campus is a good thing. If students actually look at the numbers and make decisions based on them is hard to say, but if even one person is using our report to make safe choices, that's a good thing.”
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