While Penn State is dealing with several sexual assault allegations — on and off campus — over the weekend, a new report points to an overall decline in those incidents.
The university released the 2014 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report on Tuesday, a requirement under the federal Clery Act, which mandates the collection and disclosure of crime and related statistics for college campuses.
The report for University Park shows a decrease in some crimes and increases in others.
With intense scrutiny on Penn State’s sexual assault numbers due to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, those figures are a focal point. The 2014 report, spotlighting 2013 data, shows reported dorm room rapes dropping by half, from 16 to 8. Total on-campus sexual assaults dropped even more, from 56 to 17, but that’s an inflated statistic. The 2012 numbers include the Sandusky crimes, which happened in prior years but were reported in 2012.
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Clery compliance officer Gabriel Gates credits the drop to an awareness built by teaching the importance of reporting crime and providing resources to support victims and witnesses.
“As a result of our efforts, I have seen an improvement in the awareness levels of those who work and learn at Penn State every day,” Gates said. “In fact, general awareness related to reporting a wide variety of crimes has increased at Penn State. Nationally, the issue of sexual assault on university campuses has come to the forefront, which is a good thing.”
Anne Ard, executive director of the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, has said her group is seeing more people come to them about assaults, rather than report through the university, where the data will be compiled.
“I would never draw the conclusion from a drop in reports from one year to the next that there are fewer sexual assaults. All the statistics really tell us is that there were fewer reports,” she said. “While I would be thrilled for there to actually be a drop in the number of sexual assaults, our stats at the CCWRC don’t indicate that. Our numbers actually went up a bit — and we still know that sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes.”
The data also point to other activity, including a special breakdown of hate crimes.
Penn State showed few of those incidents, but there was an increase over 2012 numbers. Two religious intimidation incidents were reported, one on campus and one off. Vandalism for racial, religious or sexual orientation was reported five times on campus, once off. That would include the anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas spray-painted on a dozen cars at a predominantly Jewish fraternity, Beta Sigma Beta, in November 2013.
At the time, State College police noted an uptick in vandalism at fraternities in 2013. The Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report Act data also included in the Clery report do not show an overall increase in incidents of vandalism. In fact, the data show a slight drop, from 219 to 195, but show an increase in arrests, from 21 to 24.
Drugs, and particularly alcohol, are a perennial college problem. In 2013, Penn State students were arrested a bit more for drugs, up to 222 from 215 on campus and five off-campus incidents directly related to students in 2012. Alcohol arrests fell to 646 from 683 on campus. Off campus arrests directly related to students fell to 27 from 40.
Referrals for drug and alcohol issues, however, ballooned.
In 2012, there were 210 on-campus drug referrals and 468 for alcohol issues. In 2013, those numbers jumped to 347 for drugs and 871 for alcohol.
According to the university, this is due to “a strengthening of policy surrounding adherence to the code of conduct.”
There was one addition to the new report: Violence Against Women Act information. With the new data, there are no previous-year comparisons, but the report shows two incidents of on-campus domestic violence, three acts of dating violence and one episode of stalking.
“The VAWA amendments to Clery add dating violence, domestic violence and stalking to the Clery Act,” said Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus. “This year institutions are required to make a ‘good faith effort’ to comply with the statute. We expect final regulations by the beginning of October.”