Annual crime statistics released to students

Drastic increases in referrals the result of new federally mandated reporting process

The Department of Public Safety and the Dean of Students Office have released their Annual Safety Report. The document provides students with crime statistics for the last three years as well as information to help keep students aware of potentially dangerous situations in a college environment. While Public Safety compiles the data to create the report, the referrals come from DOSO. Specifically, many come from Dean of Students Mark Smith.

There has been a significant increase in the number of liquor law and drug law referrals since 2009. Liquor law referrals have increased by more than a factor of four while drug law referrals have increased even more, proportionally. Although this could indicate a trend of increasing crime, Smith explained that this isn’t the case. It is, instead, the result of the federal government’s Clery Act. According to the Safety Report, “under the Clery Act, an Institution that has on-campus student housing facilities must separately disclose two sets of on-campus statistics.” Smith added that, because of this act, the numbers have essentially been inflated.

Smith said that, previously, the referral process was slightly different. Reports came in as they do now. However, DOSO used to look into each report to determine its validity. He stated that, on a regular basis, as many as half of the reports required no judicial action. During this period, the number of referrals listed in the crime statistics reflected the number valid reports. Now the number of referrals reflects the amount of reports that come in, regardless of the validity. Smith added that, as of the Clery Act, DOSO no longer looks into the reports. The referrals are based solely on “What, when, and where,” according to Smith. They have nothing to do with the outcome, he added.

This policy, though, does not necessarily extend to off-campus issues. For example, if it is unclear as to where an intoxicated student acquired alcohol after returning to campus, a report can’t be filed in regard to the law. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t against Institute policy. In this sort of situation, explained Smith, internal action may still be taken, but the event would not show up as a liquor law referral.

However, the increase in referrals is not purely the result of this new policy. Director of Public Safety Roger Johnson and Associate Director of Public Safety David Schindler agree that many have lowered their tolerance for excessive and potentially dangerous drinking. As a result, efforts to report incidents have increased. Johnson also stated that he believes excessive drinking and partying is receding at RPI.

Johnson mentioned that although RPI isn’t regarded as a “party school,” employers are beginning to look beyond a student’s GPA to determine whether he or she would be a suitable candidate for employment or an internship. Many are looking at social networking sites like Facebook, where some students post pictures of themselves participating in potentially dangerous behavior involving alcohol.

For more information regarding the recently released crime statistics, reports can be found at the Public Safety office, the Dean of Students office, and elsewhere around campus. It is also available online at http://rpi.edu/dept/public_safety/stats/index.html/.