Clery annual security report filed by university is mixed bag

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State officials have released the 2013 Annual Campus Security Report for University Park, well ahead of the Oct. 1 federal deadline. Among the data is an uptick in "forcible sexual offenses," as well as a downturn in almost every other crime category.

"There is a notable increase in forcible offenses over the past year and much of this can be attributed to previous offenses that are just now being reported, rather than in the year in which they occurred. We believe the overall increase might be due in part to the additional training that we have provided over the past 14 months," said Gabe Gates, the University's Clery compliance manager. Gates also said the additional Clery Act training for 5,000 individuals at Penn State has led to greater awareness, including how to report crimes and the resources that the University may offer victims and witnesses of crime.

The Clery Act is a federal law related to campus safety that requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses. Compliance is monitored by the U.S. Department of Education.

Gates explained that 36 of the 63 forcible sex offenses listed in the 2013 report, which covers the 2012 calendar year, actually occurred in years between the 1970s through 2011. Some of these offenses can be attributed to the crimes of convicted felon Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant coach. In the 2012 report, 30 forcible sex offenses were listed, and 11 of those were attributable to prior year reports as well. Forcible sex offenses include everything from forcibly fondling a person to rape.

"These types of crimes are always difficult to see as part of the data we compile," said Tyrone Parham, chief of University Police. "On college campuses, the vast majority of sexual and physical assaults are between people who know each other, and the majority of assaults also involve alcohol in some way."

Gates agreed that alcohol is a factor in most of the cases that are reported.

"Everyone should understand that a person who is incapacitated by alcohol is not legally capable of giving consent," he said. "Everyone who chooses to drink should also do so responsibly."

Penn State's Clery compliance manager said that the more aware a potential victim is about what constitutes a crime, the more "we hope to hear from them."

"It is my hope that the training we are providing is having an impact. We know people are more likely to come forward when they are aware of the crimes and the resources available to deal with those crimes," Gates said. "So the increase in reports may be a sign that our training is working. There's no way to be certain, but we plan to remain vigilant in our educational programs, in our updates to technology that increase safety, in the information we provide, in the resources available to victims, and in our ongoing security measures across campus. We need to make everyone aware that these behaviors constitute crimes and we are committed to preventing their occurrence."

Gates also said that nearly all other crimes listed in the report have gone down, including:

Burglary
2011 -- 112
2012 -- 48

Drug arrests
2011 -- 339
2012 -- 215

Alcohol violations
2011 -- 805
2012 -- 683

The 2013 report is available on the web at http://www.clery.psu.edu/clery/security-reports/index.cfm and also will be sent directly to faculty, staff and students via email.

"We are consistently working to make campus safer. These crimes are a serious issue on every campus and everyone needs to be aware of the potential danger and its impact on victims and the community as a whole," Parham said. "Penn State is a safe campus, but there is nothing wrong with arming yourself with the facts."

Parham offered the following safety tips:

-- If you see it, report it.
-- If you are a victim, get to safety and then report it.
-- Trust your instincts if a situation feels uncomfortable.
-- Look out for your friends and agree to leave social gathering together.. Don't leave a social event with someone you just met.
-- Individuals need to be respectful of others. Anytime you are uncertain whether your partner is comfortable with your behavior, ask! “NO” means NO and “I’m not sure” means NO. Silence also means "NO."
-- If you choose to drink, drink responsibly. Be aware of how alcohol affects you. Drinking obviously impairs judgment and can make people vulnerable to crime or unable to care for themselves, but it also can make some individuals act in aggressive ways. Being under the influence is not a defense for committing sexual/physical assault.
-- Don't allow unescorted guests into residence halls. Residence halls are controlled by 24-hour electronic access.
-- Always lock your door.
-- Know the phone number for University Police. Students need to program 814-863-1111 into their cell phones.
-- Be aware of surroundings. Pay attention while walking. Call police if you notice suspicious or unusual behavior.

Penn State also offers myriad services to victims of crime, including the following options:

-- The Center for Women Students: 814-863-2027
-- Centre County Women's Resource Center: 1-877-234-5050 (24-hour hotline)
-- Counseling and Psychological Services: 814-863-0395
-- Student and Family Services: 814-863-4926, or the crisis line at 814-863-2020

For more information on resources, visit the Center for Women Students website at: http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/awareness/rapeandassault.shtml online.

Contacts: 
Last Updated September 25, 2013