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Inside the Security & Fire Safety Annual Report: How it Works and What it Means

An email from the Office of Public Safety hit students’ inboxes earlier this month, stating that the college’s Security and Fire Safety Annual Report for fall 2014 was now available online. The message also included the summary of reportable offenses for the 2013 school year, citing three on-campus burglaries and three on-campus forcible sexual offenses.

The annual report, at 37 pages long, provides detailed descriptions of the college’s campus security policies and crime statistics for the last three years (2013, 2012, 2011) occurring on campus, in the residence halls or on public property.

Read on to find out what the report is, who it’s for, and what students can learn from it.

Why we do it

The basic answer for why we publish this annual security report is because it is a requirement under federal law. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is “the landmark federal law that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses,” and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, according to CleryCenter.org.

The Jeanne Clery Law came about when 19-year-old student Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered in her Lehigh University dorm room in 1986. Her parents, Connie and Howard Clery, discovered there were no uniform laws requiring schools to provide students and families with accurate information about both violent and non-violent crimes on campus. So, they continually petitioned the federal government to make a law mandating that all institutions of higher education report crimes and make the reports available to the public, and the “Jeanne Clery Act” came into fruition in 1991.

Currently, the law requires all colleges and universities to maintain a public crime log, disclose crime statistics for incidents on campus in unobstructed public areas through or near the campus, and publish an annual security report recounting crimes in seven major categories by Oct. 1 of each year.

What’s in it? 

Our security report, as required, documents three calendar years of specific campus crime statistics, security policies and procedures, and information on the basic rights promised to victims of sexual assault.

It is divided into eight sections. Section one deals with the workings of the safety department and the security measures on campus, section two deals with the emergency notification system (including text messages, emails, etc.), section three covers the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (see “What’s new” below), section four specifies campus alcohol and drug policies, section five goes over fire safety procedures and rules, section six describes the fire safety systems in place, and sections seven and eight provide the three years’ fire and crime statistics.

What’s new?

The annual report has been published every year since the Clery law came into effect, but much has been added since those original years.

“Every few years they make changes to what we have to report,” said Director of Public Safety at Manhattan College Juan Cerezo.

Cerezo said that after the deadly Seton Hall fire of 2000, the government required schools to also report on fires, hence the title “Security and Fire Safety Annual Report.”

He also said that around 2011 or 2012 they wanted clarifications made on burglary reporting, and another year wanted reporting on missing persons.

“This year they [U.S. Department of Education] added a lot of policies we have to report on, specifically because of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act [VAWA] that was signed by the president in March of 2013,” Cerezo explained.

“They wanted us to make a good faith effort to put in place those policies and to report those incidents, so it went from a 12-page document to a 37-page document.”

Cerezo expects that there will be more changes made within the coming years.

VAWA amended the Clery Act to require schools to collect statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. In the 2013 chart of crime statistics in Manhattan College’s annual report, there were no reported incidents of dating violence or domestic violence, but one report of stalking on campus.

VAWA also requires institutions to include its policies, procedures and programs that are explained in pages eight to 30 of the report.

“They’re policies that really help the student or victim with what to do,” explained Robert DeRosa, Associate Director of Public Safety and Risk Manager, of the VAWA policies.

“Something happened, now what do I do? Is it a crime or not?—it tells you what the crimes are. It helps you with the decision making process—if you’re ever confronted by someone touching you, or saying something to you that’s inappropriate, it spells all that out and how best to respond.”

Who is the report for?

“This is designed for our students, for our employees, for anyone who is looking to work at this college, and for any potential students,” Cerezo said. “It is made available to everyone—whether online, from human resources or from admissions.”

Domenick Laperuta, Director of Public Safety at Lehman College, located about a mile and a half away from MC, also said their report is aimed at prospective students and their parents.

“The intent was that parents, when they’re making decisions about where to send their children to college, and if they’re interested in crime or safety, there will be this document that every college and university has to post online so they can look at the statistics,” DeRosa said. “Maybe it’s a big factor to them in choosing a school, maybe it’s not, but it’s available.”

Crime Trends on Campus

For all three years at Manhattan College, the highest numbers are in the “Liquor Law Violations” category. 2011 cites 144 on campus, 2012 has 185, and 2013 has 208. “Drug Abuse Violations” decreased from 79 to 43 on campus from 2011 to 2012, but jumped back up in 2013 to a high of 106.

“Just that alcohol is such a strong component every year, for both males and females,” DeRosa said when asked about trends in the statistics. “If you’re not 21 you’re not supposed to drink to start with, but the message is for everyone to drink responsibly.”

Another category that increased over the three years was “Forcible Sexual Offenses.” There were zero on campus in 2011, in 2012 there were two on campus, and in 2013 there were three. Cerezo said that the department actually expects those numbers to increase, but not for the reasons you may think.

“As far as the sexual crimes, we expect them to go up more, only because of all the publicity with the Violence Against Women Act,” he said. “So I think that people are going to report them more.”

The full report can be read here at manhattan.edu/student_life/public-safety/safety-statistics.

 

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