Liquor violations, sex offenses climb on Foggy Bottom Campus

by Brianna Gurciullo | Metro News Editor

Media Credit: Data from GW's annual crime report

Liquor law violations on the Foggy Bottom Campus have risen steadily since 2009, increasing by 12 percent over four years, according to crime data released last week.

Over the last three years, the campus saw rises in liquor law violations, sex offenses and drug arrests, according to the annual security report required by the federal Clery Act. The report also showed a steep decline in burglaries, with other offenses seeing small fluctuations.

University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay said the campus has seen more underage drinking as websites for fake IDs have become popular.

“Alcohol is by far the biggest drug that’s being abused here at GW, and I suspect at most college campuses nationwide,” Hay said. “In a worst-case scenario, we've had students across town in some club trying to find their way home at 2 or 3 in the morning, and you know that's not good.”

The number of liquor law violations in the first month of classes has also skyrocketed from 2010 to 2013, according to an analysis of the University’s crime log. UPD recorded 119 violations between move-in day and Sept. 30 this year, compared to 69 liquor law violations during that timeframe three years ago.

Administrators have called the first two months of classes a “red zone” for high instances of substance abuse and sexual assault.

Hay said alcohol abuse is a contributing factor in sexual assault cases, in which the overwhelming majority of victims know their perpetrators.

“And that’s happening behind closed doors, where we don’t have the ability to stop it,” Hay said, adding that UPD turns its attention to combating alcohol abuse, so students “never get to that point where that activity happens.”

The number of forcible sex offenses, which include rapes, has more than doubled since 2008. Six sex offenses were reported five years ago compared to 14 in 2012.

Hay said the increase likely stems from more victims reporting that they were sexually assaulted, not a rise in the number of crimes.

“What we are trying to do is create an atmosphere where if someone is a victim of sexual assault, they feel more empowered to step forward,” Hay said, highlighting efforts by the Sexual Assault Response Consultative Team.

Universities are required to report campus crime under the Clery Act, which was passed in 1990 to lay out national rules for compiling data and issuing warnings.

This year’s report saw burglaries drop by nearly half between 2012 and the year before, with other offenses seeing small fluctuations.

GW logged a total of 20 burglaries in 2012 – down from 39 the year before and 75 in 2010. Hay said that steep decline is partly attributed to a more narrow definition of burglary adopted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation two years ago.

Hay also said GW’s move to install electronic locks in residence halls has prevented campus burglaries. The University announced it would spend $1.2 million to put electronic locks in more than a half-dozen residence halls after a string of daytime burglaries in Ivory Tower, Fulbright and JBKO last semester.

Campus police also added 24-hour security to those three halls, which previously only had guards to monitor entrances at night. Student entrance monitors were assigned to 10 more halls last academic year, Hay said.

This year, GW no longer reported the number of thefts in its annual report, which Hay said was an attempt to streamline the report. Thefts on the Foggy Bottom Campus totaled 460 in 2011, the latest data available, up from 439 the year before.

“We're trying to make it more user-friendly, and we thought it was too long before. We're trying to reduce it down to what the Department of Ed requires and what we think is most useful to the reader,” Hay said.

Drug law violations that passed through the University’s disciplinary system rose from 143 in 2011 to 162 last year, but arrests for drugs hovered around 20 for both years.

Hay said many arrests are for intent to sell marijuana. Officers most often bust students for marijuana possession, followed by cocaine.

Some officers catch students using marijuana when they smell smoke on patrol in residence halls, but Hay said the number of complaints from students in nearby rooms has risen.

“We are seeing more neighbors, people who live on the floors of the residence halls, who get fed up with marijuana smoke coming out of a particular room and they call it in. Sometimes anonymously, sometimes they give their name, and they’ve got studying to do,” Hay said. “How long are you gonna tolerate it when you’re trying to concentrate?”

The number of drug violations on the Mount Vernon Campus jumped from three to 10 between 2011 and 2012. Hay attributed the uptick to a higher concentration of freshmen – who are more likely to commit liquor, drug, noise or conduct violations – on the Foxhall Road campus.

- Benjamin Kershner and Aaron Goodtree contributed to this report

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