Congressional report shows increase in campus crime

Serious crimes on the nation’s 6,300 college campuses are on the rise, according to a recent Department of Education report.

Hate crimes, robberies and sexual offenses are among the 250,000 reported crimes highlighted in “The Incidence of Crime on the Campuses of U.S. Postsecondary Education Institutions.”

The Department of Education under former Secretary of Education Richard Riley prepared the Jan. 18 report to Congress.

“The purpose of the report is two-fold,” said S. Daniel Carter, vice president of the non-profit watchdog group Security on Campus, Inc. “First is to inform students and parents of prospective students as to the dangers faced on college campuses. Second it is to convince schools that they need to make changes in the way they train their officers, get better technology, better lighting, electronic locks, better policing.”

In a letter to college presidents, the Department of Education said the public uses “the information to assess the institution’s security policies and the level and nature of crime on its campus.”

The report showed a slight overall increase in reported on-campus crime in 1999 from 1998 and a drop in murders and aggravated assaults. Increases fell in several areas, including drinking-related incidents.

“There are different factors that are faced in colleges rather than in communities,” Carter told U-WIRE. “First is a concentrated use of high amounts of alcohol and drugs that the normal community doesn’t deal with because normal communities couldn’t with those amounts of alcohol.”

Many American universities struggle with binge drinking — the excessive consumption of alcohol by students. The implications go beyond drinking, Carter added.

“Alcohol and violence have a direct correlation,” he said.

The report cites some 108,846 incidents of alcohol-related referrals for disciplinary action in addition to the 25,933 alcohol-related arrests in 1999. Drug abuse increased 6 percent nationally.

The number of homicides dropped dramatically from 24 in 1998 to 11 in 1999, a 54 percent decrease.

Hate crimes increased from 1,374 in 1998 to 2,067 in 1999. The report attributes this increase to the increase of two-year for-profit institutions that “generally do not have police or security officers.”

“It is important to collect these data at an institutional level because violence motivated by hate or bias seriously threatens the values of the school and the larger community,” the report said.

Despite increases in certain crimes, the report said students are safer on campus. Only 19 percent of the crimes reported occurred on campuses, while 72 percent occurred off or nearby institutional grounds.

The report is a result of two congressional acts requiring such data to be reported.

The 1990 Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act is now known as the Clery Act in memory of Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University, who was sexually assaulted and murdered by a classmate in 1986. The Higher Education Amendment of 1998 also required a compilation of the data.

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