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Inside Manhattan College’s Security and Fire Safety Annual Report

by RIKKILYNN SHIELDS, Staff Writer

This year’s Security and Fire Safety Annual Report was issued on Sept. 16 of this year by Public Safety and details crime statistics, fire information and related policies. But how does this document come together, and more importantly, what does it mean for students?

Each January, the 50th Precinct submits the  local crime reports to Manhattan College. Public Safety then takes it into their own hands, adds in campus-specific crime reports, and compiles the Security and Fire Safety Annual Report.

New to this year’s report is the breaking out of different sex offenses into specific categories, rather than listing them under the umbrella term of  “sex offenses.”

This is a direct result of changes to federal legislation.

In March 2013, President Barack Obama signed legislation called the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), which included new provisions to end sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence and dating violence.

Before the reauthorization act, all colleges and universities were expected to make a good faith effort in submitting their annual crime report, but it wasn’t specified how they would report distinct sex offenses. During that year and previous years, sex offenses were either categorized as “forcible” or “non-forcible.”

VAWA finally came out with clarification in 2014, implementing a new way of reporting sex offenses more specifically. It was finalized that sex offenses would be reported much more clearly than in the past. Colleges and universities were required to report if the sex offense was a rape, a fondling, incest, statuary rape or another category.

The goal was to make the sex offenses more transparent than in previous years of reporting the incidents. That particular year is when Manhattan College added domestic violence, dating violence and stalking to the crime reports. Colleges and universities were also required to state what preventive programs were being held on campus for incoming students and employees, and any other campaigns that were going to be held during the course of the year for the campus community.

Manhattan identifies all of the crime reports and preventative programs on campus in the Security and Fire Safety Report as required.

“It’s a team effort now. It’s no longer just a public safety department responsibility. We need the help from residence life, the counseling center, the dean’s office, athletics and other offices on campus,” Juan Cerezo, the director of public safety at MC, said.

“If they have any programs in place that will help prevent sexual assault, public safety needs to be aware of it. Although it was never anyone else’s responsibility but ours, everyone is cooperating.”

In the crime report this year, there is also a new category of offenses called “unfounded crimes.” Unfounded crimes aren’t limited to sexual assault. Instead, any crime that Public Safety is required to report to the appropriate authorities is listed under unfounded crimes.

If a student files a report with the police department and the crime ends up being baseless, as soon as the detective determines that for a fact and shares the information with public safety, it needs to be listed in the crime report. If the crime is reported only to Manhattan, public safety cannot determine if a crime is unfounded, so the next step is for the law enforcement to take it into their own hands and determine the outcome.

Another notable change is in the number of off-campus drug offenses. In previous years, the college’s security report showed 0 drug abuse violations on public property. This year, the NYPD reported that they had made five drug related off-campus arrests this past year. This change could possibly be attributed to better reporting by the NYPD, stricter enforcement, or both.

Public safety is also heavily involved in not just implementing federal but also New York State legislation regarding sexual assault on campus.

The “Enough is Enough” Legislation was implemented in the state in June 2015. Colleges and universities in New York State were required to be in compliance with most of the new rules by Oct. 5 of this year.

The “Enough is Enough” Legislation focuses on three big features: the Student Bill of Rights, drug and alcohol amnesty and affirmative consent. The purpose of a Student Bill of Rights is in place to inform students of their rights in any type of situation that involves witnessing or being a part of any sexual misconduct. This bill is available to students online and on campus.

“The bill of rights is all about letting the students know what their rights are,” Cerezo said.

The drug and alcohol amnesty serves as a requirement for colleges and institutions to adopt a policy that when students report sexual misconduct or assault, or are a part of an incident, they are not subject drug testing.

“A lot of students don’t come forward because they were using drugs or alcohol, especially in sexual assault cases,” Cerezo said. “We want students to know with the amnesty program, if you come forward, we want you to report to us the facts you know. Whether you’re a witness or even the victim, come forward, and even if you were drinking, we are not going to cite you or hold disciplinary action against you.”

The last emphasis of “Enough is Enough” is affirmative consent.

In Article 129-B of the “Enough is Enough” legislation, affirmative consent is defined as, “a knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent can be given by words or actions, as long as those words or actions create clear permission regarding willingness to engage in the sexual activity. Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent. The definition of consent does not vary based upon a participant’s sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

Affirmative consent requires all colleges and universities to adopt a statewide uniform definition of consent. The uniform definition of consent is meant to make colleges and universities adopt the “yes means yes” policy, making sure that consent exists only when both parties clearly agree and everyone on campus understands what consent is exactly.

“The affirmative consent confirms that there must be a clear, verbal agreement between both parties agreeing that they are willing to involve in sexual activity together. The fact that someone stays silent is never clear consent,” Cerezo said.

But these are just the beginning of changes public safety plans to implement this year.

“More IP [internet protocol] cameras were added on campus, covering almost the entire quad area and Walsh Plaza,” he said.

This gives Public Safety much clearer pictures than before when they used analog cameras.

“Public Safety is also looking to implement more cameras in the O’Malley Library,” he said.

The other big item being implemented is a public address system. In 2012, public safety  invited the fire department and Con-Ed to discuss an emergency drill and hold a mock exercise, simulating an explosion inside a vault holding a transformer on campus. The fire department determined that Manhattan could benefit from a public address system, and it could be used almost as a backup for E-2 Campus, the current emergency system that is sends alerts directly to the phones of campus community members.

MC can expect the public address system to be in place by next semester.

“We are trying to intensify our officers’ visibility,” Cerezo said. “Instead of just walking by, we are encouraging that they say hello to the students and intensify their patrol efforts. Some students are concerned about the walk from Leo back to campus, and around Post Road by Horan. We are enforcing the patrol to visit these locations more often.”

NYPD also held an operations ID workshop with an NYPD crime prevention officer in the Kelly Commons a few weeks ago. Students could register their electronics for the NYPD to put into their database. This is a preventative measure in the case that someone steals a student’s electronic device, the NYPD can track it more easily.

Additionally, with the growing concern about the numerous cases of gun violence occurring recently on college campuses around the country, public safety decided to take initiative. David Erosa, assistant director of public safety, invited Lieutenant David Kalin with the counter terrorism and field intelligence unit at the NYPD to speak on campus.

On Wednesday, Nov. 18th, Kalin will be coming to speak about emergency preparation and active shooter scenarios.

“We try to take the proactive approach to community needs and, this is a great avenue, talking about the students’ concerns,” Erosa said.

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