Behind The Clery Act

Photo by Kayley Driggers | The Falcon
Students are often unaware that they can ask for information regarding crime at the Office of Safety and Security.

As the end of the quarter draws near, students continue to attend classes and study for tests, going about their daily academic tasks.

All the while, the Office of Safety and Security continues to compile a daily crime log with reports ranging from car prowls to sexual assault, as required by the Clery Act.

This act establishes that a daily crime log must be made available to the public by all post secondary institutions that receive federal financial assistance and have a campus security office or police department.

In adherence to the act, certain information must be included in the reports. These include the nature of the crime, dates of when the crime occurred and when it was reported, time, general location and disposition of the complaint if known.

This week’s crime, for example, lists the date, Thursday, May 25, that a person was reported for harassment and how Safety and Security Officers responded to the situation, but does not include the time or specific location. While OSS may have this information, the fact that it is not present on the crime log is technically in violation of the Clery Act.

In addition to requiring that all necessary information be included, the act also requires that the information be provided in a form that can easily be understood. So, unreasonably vague descriptions and undecipherable technical jargon or codes are unacceptable.

Thanks to this act, crime logs are legally required to be available to all students who ask to see them, but not all students know this or aware of what the Clery Act is.

Formally known as The Jeanne Clery Act Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the Clery Act was implemented in 1990 after the 1986 rape and murder of Jeanne Clery.

Clery, who was a first-year at Lehigh University, was murdered by a fellow Lehigh student who gained access to her dormitory by entering through three doors that had been propped open by other residents.

Howard and Connie Clery, Clery’s parents, learned after her death that there had been 38 assaults and other violent crimes at Lehigh over a three-year period.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Clerys insisted that their daughter would have never attended the university if the crime reports had been made public.

Lobbying by the Clery family resulted in the 1990 passing of the Clery Act.

Campus security departments must also make a 60-day crime log available to the public in compliance with the Act.

However, the manner in which colleges and universities disclose information required by the Clery Act varies by institution.

Within the Seattle area, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle University and the University of Washington differ in the ways they make crime statistics available to the public.

Seattle University, a Jesuit Catholic institution in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and University of Washington, a public research university in Seattle, make their crime logs available to the public online.

Of the universities contacted, Seattle Pacific is the only one that does not post its crime log online. Those who wish to access the log must visit the Office of Safety and Security in person and ask to see it.

Seattle Pacific’s crime log dates back to September 2016, far past the required 60-day crime log requirement.

Reports within this time frame can include incidents that occurred outside the time frame but that were reported within the 60 days. Incidents can also be reported by a person directly involved or by designated campus security authorities who have an obligation to report certain types of crimes that occur on or near campus.

Further examination of the log will reveal that from September 2016 to April 2017, seven reports of rape were filed.

While the Office of Safety and Security has begun to offer programs to help increase awareness about sexual assault and rape in the last five years, many students are unaware of their right to ask for a comprehensive and readable crime log.

In the past, editors for The Falcon who sought to obtain information from SPU’s crime logs to include in each week’s issue have experienced issues attaining the crime log due to confusion and miscommunication with OSS employees.

Though there were misunderstandings about what the Clery Act required at times between student and nonstudent OSS staff, the issues have since been resolved.

At SPU, the OSS keeps a physical copy of each crime log, but it contains six copies of the same November 1, 2016 through November 30, 2016 crime report, making the collection of crime logs appear larger than it really is.

In addition to that, various crimes listed occur within one to two minutes of each other, which can lead to confusion.

According to Director of Safety and Security Mark Reid, these discrepancies can easily be explained.

For example, the reason behind the multiple copies of a section of the November crime log is due to a recent software update.

Reid also remarked that in some circumstances, an individual might commit several different crimes in one instance, which is the reason behind crimes being listed a couple of minutes apart.

Furthermore, due to the “hierarchy rule” in the Clery Act, the most serious crime committed in the particular instance would be the one listed first in the crime log.

Over at the University of Washington (UW), the crime log is easily accessible online and students get email notifications of recent crimes.

Having seen the crime logs online, UW junior Shruti Parikh said the log was easy to read, very similar to the UW alerts she receives over email. She mentioned that she was glad that the logs were online because she is more likely to go online than go to the campus security office in person.

UW junior Brookelyn Parsons is in agreement, adding that “all you have to do is Google [the crime logs]” in order to find them.

“I don’t know anything about the Clery Act, and the only thing I know about crime logs is that they report crime,” Parsons said. “I get email updates on recent criminal activity on my campus, and I assume that the reason I do is because of this act, though I’ve never heard of it [before this].”

According to Parsons, the logs were easy to read, but vague in description.

While Parsons did not “know the details of the crimes, just the time, place and general nature of the crime,” such as disorderly conduct, fire, theft and more, she said she still recognized all the terms.

Upon reviewing the crime logs, SPU first-year Jana Peterson found that the UW crime log was easiest to understand out of the three schools examined. She said that the listing of the address and the common area surrounding the location of the crime made it simpler for someone to figure out where crime occurred.

Peterson added that she would “definitely” be more likely to access SPU’s crime log if it were made available online, and that those who did not live on or near campus were at a disadvantage in trying to obtain the crime log.

Peterson also said that access to the crime log was “more of interest to [her] parents” who live farther away from SPU.

However, the accessibility of the crime log is different at Seattle Pacific than it is at other universities in the area.

Reid said that the Safety and Security website does not have the current capabilities to post the crime log online. To do so would require an “investment” that would not likely take place unless those on campus expressed an interest in having the crime log online.

“[Seattle Pacific is a] relatively low crime campus,” Reid said. Typically, the Office of Safety and Security could receive anywhere from five to six reports of crime in a day or they could receive no reports at all.

Regarding the number of reported rape cases on campus this year, Reid also said that the seven cases reported is “not a high number.” The low number of reported cases can also be attributed to fact that rape and sexual assault are a “very underreported crime,” according to Reid.

“We’re trying to do more about that,” Reid said. “We want everybody to have some awareness of these issues.”

A collaboration piece with The Falcon’s News Assistant Jenna Dennison.

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