By BETINA GOSE
Many students shiver at the word “statistics,” especially if it refers to a basic course requirement that most students not majoring in math or science have to live through. But statistics are of course very useful in demonstrating how one incident fits into a larger picture of incidents – as in the case of campus crime statistics.
In 1987, Howard and Connie Clery founded Security on Campus Inc. in their daughter Jeanne’s memory. The previous year, Jeanne, who was a freshman, had been viciously raped, beaten and murdered by a fellow student in her dorm room at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Jeanne and her parents had chosen Lehigh because it was close to home. After Jeanne’s murder, however, her parents learned that 38 other violent offenses, including rape, robbery and assault had taken place at Lehigh over the previous three years.
For Jeanne and her parents that tidbit of information came too late. Today, however, the federal law now known as the Clery Act requires that all public and private post-secondary institutions receiving federal funding make their crime statistics available to the public; Kennesaw State University falls under this law.
A 2008 amendment to the Clery Act came about after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and requires that, in addition to crime statistics, an emergency response system be in place so students, faculty and other staff can be notified immediately of any threats or emergencies on campus.
KSU’s Emergency Notification System “Connect-ED” is set up to text, email or call registered users. According to an Orlando Sentinel interview with Bob Lang, assistant vice president for strategic security and safety at KSU, our university is also set up to use sirens with voice over when faced with a need to shelter in, as well as a computer pop-up override networked to all desktops and classroom systems. This overrides classroom work and displays a message of what is happening and what to do. As the number of shootings in recent years proves, emergencies do occur. These incidents have highlighted the need for continued efforts and awareness and should give students plenty of good reasons to sign up to receive alerts and keep phone numbers and emails current with school records. For instructions on the KSU Alert system and how to update your personal information, go to http://www.kennesaw.edu/sss/alert_systems/ksualert.html.
The Clery Act allows for parents and students to get the full picture of crime statistics so they can make informed decisions. That is, when colleges and universities, which are under constant pressure to project a flawless image in the ever-present competition for students, follow the law and don’t hide or misrepresent crime facts.
KSU Aces Clery Act Compliance
An inquiry into KSU compliance with the Clery Act shows that our university has done a pretty good job keeping up with Clery Act requirements, a job filled by KSU’ Public Safety Department. The KSU PSD is an entity with state certified police officers and its own jurisdiction, although this overlaps with Cobb County Police. According to Captain Kelli Maloney, the requirements for Clery Act reporting have grown at lot over the years and are now quite substantial.
“We have a records management system that has a module in it that’s specifically for Clery Act reporting…Our records department reviews every single report that is written [here] and when we go through it we determine whether it is Clery related,” Maloney said. “If it includes any of those crimes or arrests, then we go into the Clery module and mark it as Clery reportable and what crime it should be counted as: burglary, robbery, rape – whichever.”
The yearly report of crime statistics, compiled by Maloney, must include total numbers for crimes such as murders (thankfully, that number has been zero for KSU for as long as the university has been in existence), sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and arson as well as arrests or judicial referrals for liquor law, drug and weapons violations (Most arrests by KSU PSD will go through the Cobb County Court System. The campus department does not have a jail facility, so anyone arrested will be turned over to Cobb County’s Adult Detention Center.).
To encourage crime reporting, Lt. Bernadette Haynes of the Community Policing Unit sends out an annual letter to the deans and administrators – or anyone identified as campus security authorities – asking if they have received any anonymous reports and whether they know anything about a crime that wasn’t reported to the police department. This is especially relevant for the reporting of sexual assault crimes, which often go unreported (see “Break the Silence: Low Reporting of Sexual Assaults Enables Repeat Offenders”). The letter helps ensure that KSU’s crime statistics are accurate, but according to Haynes, the response rate from that letter is usually very low.
According to the KSU Public Safety Department’s “Safe and Sound” 2012 report, which covers statistics from 2009, 2010 and 2011, KSU has only seen one robbery over the course of those three years; one aggravated assault over same period and eight motor vehicle thefts. For comparison, the University of Georgia, which claims 34,475 students, reported a total of seven robberies, three aggravated assaults and 26 motor vehicle thefts for that same time period.
KSU’s Crime Logs Provide Larger Picture of Campus Crime
But before you draw a sigh of relief at those numbers, believing there is virtually no crime at KSU, note these approximate numbers of larceny/theft (161), destruction of property (219) and simple assault (10) for 2010 alone. The Clery Act does not require these numbers to be compiled in the yearly report, although some schools, like UGA, still include those totals in their report. They are, however, available on the KSU PSD website under “KSU Public Crime Log,” which shows records of all crimes known to KSU PSD – generally as recent as 24 hours ago. To get the above totals for KSU, one simply adds up the incidents reported in the daily logs for any particular year. It is part of the Clery Act requirements that schools provide “unquestioned access” to these daily crime logs.
If, while looking at the crime logs, you’re wondering why so many case numbers are missing on the crime log, the answer, according to Maloney and Haynes, is that those cases are not crimes that are reportable under the Clery Act, and include anything from campus escorts to smoking violations and traffic incidents.
The crime logs, which include the nature, date, time, general location and the disposition of the complaint, do reveal a larger picture of what goes on here on campus; anything from hit and runs, domestic disputes and harassing communication to fires, alarms and even suspicious person reports. Whereas most of these crimes are a lesser threat to students, awareness of these activities will help you stay alert on and around campus.
Clery Act statistics are, of course, only a valuable tool for awareness to the extent that students and parents pay attention to them. Attention, however, starts with awareness of their existence and to meet this end, the Clery Act mandates that the campus community be notified of the yearly report’s availability. According to Maloney, KSU PSD fulfills this requirement by sending out campuswide mass emails to students, faculty and staff as soon as the report becomes available. The information is also made available to prospective KSU students and employees.
The Clery Act was born out of the idea that the right kind of knowledge helps us make better decisions; it helps us to more accurately assess the risks we are willing to take and the ones we’re not. The Clery Act ensures the information is out there, but as with all other knowledge, it’s up to you whether you choose to use it. I for one will not leave my laptop unattended while I go to the bathroom, nor my car unlocked when I go to class.
Editor’s note: The reporter of this article examined three years of online police logs (2009, 2010 and 2011) and 44 detailed crime incident reports obtained through the Open Records Act. She also compared those three years of online police logs to the Clery Act statistics in the Safe and Sound Annual Security Report compiled by the KSU police department. Finally, she examined same three years of The Sentinel, comparing crime incidents from the newspaper’s Police Beat to the Clery Act statistics in said report.