University crime recorded online

Students and parents can now compare safety for GW and other colleges since the Department of Education started posting crime statistics online two weeks ago.

The Department of Education began posting crime statistics for all participating universities on the internet in accordance with a revision to the Clery Act, a federal mandate requiring schools across the country to make campus crime information available to the public. GW submitted its 1999 crime statistics to the Department of Education last month.

Congress authorized the Web site for the Office of Postsecondary Education, which oversees the statistics, in a 1998 amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Safety is certainly a concern for parents and students in selecting a college, and this is the next step in making such information readily available, said U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, according to a Department of Education online press release in September.

The Clery Act was passed after the murder of Lehigh University student Jeanne Clery in 1986.

Clery’s parents learned that Lehigh did not make public 38 violent crimes that had occurred on campus prior to Clery’s death. The federal law passed after the incident requires all universities to publish campus crimes, according to an Oct. 19 Associated Press story.

GW’s statistics are similar in many respects to other universities in the area, including American, Catholic, Howard and Georgetown, according to numbers posted on the Department of Education Web site. But statistics show GW has been more successful combating crime in two categories.

For example, GW has had only seven reported forcible sex offenses on campus in the past three years – with only one in 1999 – versus 23 at Georgetown during the same time period. In 1999 there were 28 reported burglaries at GW versus 102 at Georgetown, 64 at Howard and 40 at American.

At GW eight of the 28 burglaries reported in 1999 took place in residence halls, while 41 of 64 reported burglaries at Howard took place in on-campus housing. The majority of burglaries at American also were reported in residence halls.

Some GW students said they feel safe in GW residence halls.

I go and hang out in my friends’ rooms for hours and leave my door open because I feel very safe, GW freshman Sara Brodie said. This place is a lot more secure than American (University), where it seems anyone can just walk into their dorms.

The number of alcohol and drug violations at GW increased substantially last year from 1997 and 1998 after the Department of Education issued new guidelines for reporting statistics. The new regulations went into effect in October 1998.

Dolores Stafford, director of GW’s University Police Department, said the increase could be a result of the new regulations.

We have to count the statistics for each person referred for judicial action, Stafford said. If you look at (UPD’s published crime statistics), you’ll see that for comparative purposes; the number of incidents in 1999 is 185 but the number of students referred (to SJS) is 465.

She said UPD deals with crimes based on D.C. law and has to transfer incidents to the Uniform Crime Report to meet federal definitions.

Darryl Harrison, assistant director of Georgetown’s Department of Public Safety, said that 1999 numbers may not reflect the actual crime rate.

This year’s numbers may show a large number of deviations because of new department regulations, so students have to be aware that the newest numbers may not be a true indication of the actual change in the crime rate, he said.

In addition to submitting its statistics to the Department of Education, UPD also launched its own Web site Oct. 1. The site provides students with three years of crime statistics in addition to other security information.

Stafford said the campus crime rate is on a downward trend.

We have instituted new policies and procedures which have directly resulted in curbing the overall crime rate, she said.

UPD initiatives introduced in the last few years include a Metropolitan Police Department substation near the Foggy Bottom campus, a tips line students can call and the Police on Bikes program that allows UPD officers to patrol the campus on bikes.

In addition, the GW shuttle service and UPD Escort Service have improved response times, according to the UPD Web site. Stafford said UPD has added one new full-time and 10 new part time 4-RIDE drivers in addition to a new vehicle.

A freshman female who was robbed Oct. 11 outside of the Hall on Virginia Avenue and asked to remain anonymous said she still does not feel totally secure on campus.

The UPD and D.C. metro police have been very helpful but I don’t think that they can prevent every single crime, so people need to be smart when they are walking around the city, she said.

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