Staff editorial: Encouraging statistics

Campus crime statistics are now available online on both the University’s web site and the U.S. Department of Education’s homepage. The statistics help parents and students objectively evaluate campus safety, but problems with the reporting system do exist.

The federal Clery Act, passed in 1986 after the murder of a Lehigh University student, requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding give public access to crime statistics. The act’s purpose is to force universities to provide parents and students information they need to evaluate campus safety. The numbers were put on the Web for the first time this year. Providing those figures on the internet benefits parents and students and improves the public’s access to the information.

But the requirement to report crime statistics can sometimes overwhelm campus police departments. As a law enforcement agency in D.C., GW’s University Police Department must participate in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report program, file statistics with the District government and comply with the Department of Education’s requirements. Each of these reports uses different classifications and definitions for crimes, which means officials must rework the statistics to comply with each agency’s standards. To ease the burden on police departments, the government agencies should work together to streamline the process.

Despite the cumbersome reporting requirements, standardized campus crime statistics serve as a good baseline for comparing safety at universities across the country. A survey of D.C. universities shows GW to be one of the safest. With significantly fewer reports of forcible sexual assault and burglaries in residence halls, GW seems to foster a safer environment than neighboring Georgetown, American and Howard universities.UPD should be commended for its efforts to prevent crime on campus. Foot and bike patrols coupled with officers stationed in residence halls and cruising the campus in clearly marked vehicles seem to be deterring crime.

Students, police and administrators must continue to cooperate to improve campus crime statistics and make this the safest campus of its kind in the nation.

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