The U.S. Department of Education released a report to Congress Jan. 18 insisting that “college campuses are safe.” Mandated by the Higher Education Amendments of 1998, the report details data collected under the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to release annual crime reports to the public. The government and institutions of higher learning are acting responsibly in providing crime statistics to students and parents. According to the report though, there is still reason for students to exercise caution on campus.
The report cites data collected from incidents reported to campus security and police departments and other police agencies with jurisdiction over and around colleges and universities. Despite its efficiency, some flaws do exist in the system. The statistics are only as good as the information collected, which is especially hard when victims of crime are often loath to report an incident to authorities. Sexual assault, for instance, is the most underreported crime in the nation.
The report indicates students are safest on campus. More crimes occur in public areas on or adjacent to campuses than on university owned or controlled property. But one third of on-campus crimes occurred in residence halls, making vigilance in those buildings of paramount importance. Of the crimes reported, some – such as non-forcible sex offenses and arson – are more likely to occur on campus and most often occur in residence halls.
GW has taken a forward-thinking approach to keeping students safe in an urban environment, but problems have arisen. Most recently, a federal fugitive was apprehended on campus and a student was robbed at gunpoint just a few blocks from the University. While overall data indicates that University Police officers and residence hall staffs work hard to protect students, this report from the Department of Education shows that unfortunately some crime will occur despite the best efforts of police and administrators. Only students can keep themselves safe through vigilance and efforts to minimize their risk of victimization.