UNIVERSITY PARK — Forcible sex offenses involving Penn State students saw a sharp spike in 2011, according to the annual crime report released last week.
Forcible sex offenses had increased from four incidents in 2010 to 24 incidents in 2011, the last year tallied in the annual report, “Policies, Safety & U.”
The 32-page report, which includes crime and fire safety reports, is a compliance requirement of the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
Forcible sex offenses include forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object and forcible fondling. According to the report, it is defined as “any sexual act directed against another person, forcible and/or against the person’s will; or not forcible or against the person’s will where the victim is incapable of giving consent.”
In 2009, there were eight incidents of forcible rape on campus. In the three-year period of the report, there were no nonforcible sex offenses, defined as nonforcible sexual intercourse, including incest and statutory rape.
Of 2011’s incidents, 10 occurred in residence halls and six were off campus, according to the report.
The reason for the increase in sexual crimes incidences seems to be twofold — lack of good judgment and increase in awareness.
“The people involved continue to be people who know each other and who have invited the other into their personal residence.” said Police Chief Tyrone Parham. “Increased awareness, encouragement to report, and victim closure seem to be the reason for the increase.”
The university mandates that all first-year students complete a sexual assault education program before matriculation. According to the report, 10,465 students from all 20 Penn State campuses completed the program in fall 2011.
Regardless, the crimes still happen — and many remain unreported.
“From a national perspective, sexual assault continues to be one of the most underreported crimes,” Parham said. “This is particularly true on college campuses. University Police and Public Safety have always encouraged victims to report. Increased victim exposure during 2011 may have prompted others to report when perhaps they may not have otherwise done so.”
In the more specific hate crimes category, there was one forcible sex offense on campus involving race. Hate crimes can be against ethnicity, race, sexual orientation or gender. There were no sex offenses, forcible or nonforcible, in 2009 or 2010 in that category, according to the report.
The annual report highlighted crimes in several offenses, including an array of violent and nonviolent crimes. Another area that saw a sharp increase was in drug arrests, which totaled 292 incidents. That number was up significantly from 199 the year before and 93 in 2009, according to the report. Alcohol incidents inched up over prior years, from 761 arrests in 2009 and 742 arrests in 2010 to 805 in 2011, according to the report.
“We do not know the answer for the increase in (drug) usage. Large numbers of reporting and aggressive enforcement, I would say, have contributed to the increase in our arrest numbers,” Parham said. “Strict enforcement and collaborative educational programs continue, as do alcohol education programs.”
One other category saw increases as well. There were 112 burglary incidents in 2011 vs. 58 in 2010 and 48 in 2009, the report showed.
“The campus continues to be a safe place for our students, faculty/ staff, and visitors,” Parham said. “Serious crimes such as aggravated assault, vehicle theft, and robbery are rare. High-risk drinking-related crimes such as liquor law violation and public drunkenness continue to be a concern. Theft of property is another crime we’d like to see decrease.
“Most thefts can be prevented on campus by people simply securing their belongings and not leaving them unattended,” he added. “Again, education is a key component in the prevention of many crimes.”
Christopher Passante can be reached at 231-4621.