Crime stats put RU in middle of pack

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By Kelly Mangan

Contrary to the impression conveyed by recent news of alleged lawbreaking at Rider, annual reports on campus security make it clear that the University ranks closely to about the same as competing schools when it comes to overall crime statistics.

“Beleaguered Rider University yesterday again saw police officers on campus investigating a crime,” The Times (of Trenton) reported last week.
But in comparison with athletic rivals in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and mid-sized New Jersey colleges, Rider’s crime numbers generally fall in the middle of the pack for calendar year 2006.

Any institution of higher education that receives federal monies must submit a yearly report to the U.S. Department of Education by Oct. 1 of the following year, as mandated by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

The schools must reveal crimes reported to their offices or local police departments during the previous three calendar years on campus, in residence halls (as a subset of the on-campus numbers), in buildings operated by the institution, and on public property close to the campus.

In six of nine crime categories, Rider reported zero occurrences on both of its campuses in 2006. No MAAC schools reported any homicides that year.

Burglary was the most common crime in MAAC schools, with nine of the 10 schools reporting occurrences on campus or in institution-owned buildings. Rider’s report of 28 on the Lawrenceville campus was below only one of its rivals’ reports: Marist’s 31 confirmed burglaries on its main campus. Fairfield rounded out the top three with 24 instances.

Only three MAAC schools reported any motor vehicle thefts during 2006. Loyola in Maryland reported six on its main campus, with Manhattan and Marist reporting two and one, respectively. Rider had none.

Half of the institutions, including Rider’s Lawrenceville campus, reported no robberies. There were no hate crimes or bias crimes with injury at any of the MAAC schools.

Rider’s Lawrenceville campus matched Siena and Fairfield’s reports of two forcible sex offenses. The highest report in this category was Marist’s five.

On Rider’s Princeton campus, four forcible sex offenses were reported, double the number on the Lawrenceville campus despite a more than 5,000-student difference in enrollment. However, the Princeton campus reported zero forcible sex offenses in the two previous years, while the Lawrenceville campus reported three in 2004 and two in 2005.

“The University makes a concerted effort to encourage victims of sexual assault to come forward and file reports,” said Dan Higgins, executive director of University Communications at Rider.

“Public safety officers, resident directors and resident advisors are trained in how to appropriately respond in such cases,” he said. “Clearly, one incident of sexual assault is too many.”

Neither Rider campus reported any motor vehicle thefts or robberies. The last report of robbery on the Lawrenceville campus was one in 2004. The Princeton campus has not reported any robberies or motor vehicle thefts in the past three years. It had three burglaries last year.

In relation to other private institutions of similar cost in New Jersey, Rider again was generally comparable.
Monmouth reported six forcible sex offenses — four more than Rider’s Lawrenceville campus and two more than the Princeton campus.

Rider’s neighbor, The College of New Jersey, reported only one forcible sex offense in 2006. Both Rider and TCNJ reported one aggravated assault.

TCNJ was one of two New Jersey colleges added to the Security on Campus organization’s violators list in 2000 for not meeting the federal requirements. Ramapo College was added in 2001.

Security on Campus is the watchdog organization that lobbied for passage of the Clery Act. The law also mandates public access to campus crime logs. The Clery family started the group after Jeanne Clery was raped and murdered by a fellow student at Lehigh University in 1986.

The U.S. Department of Education, which does not verify the statistics, must be notified of the report’s completion along with students and employees of the school.

While TCNJ reported 20 burglaries compared to Lawrenceville’s 28, the state school also reported one case of arson. Rider has no cases of arson.

Liquor law referrals or disciplinary actions were the most prevalent statistics of all the schools’ reports. In the MAAC schools, Rider’s main campus reported 285, a distant third to Fairfield’s 756 and Loyola’s 699. On the other end of the spectrum, Saint Peter’s reported only 68.

Meanwhile, Rider’s Princeton campus reported only four liquor violations or referrals.

Neighboring schools differed wildly in their reports of liquor violations. TCNJ reported 781 while Princeton University reported only 20.

Princeton also reported 17 motor vehicle thefts and 17 forcible sex offenses.

Since the year of the latest report, Rider has worked last summer and this fall to add “safety enhancements” to improve the University’s overall security, Higgins noted.

“We installed a total of 48 emergency blue lights across both campuses, for a total of 50,” he said in a statement. “[We] added five security cameras, bringing the total number of cameras across both campuses to 43.”

Another change is more security-focused staffing.

“Five new full-time Public Safety positions were created in response to the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Alcohol, Personal Responsibility, and Student Life,” Higgins said. “Public Safety officers are assigned as ‘resource buddies’ to residence halls and Greek houses to identify security risks, develop relationships with residents, and provide risk-prevention programming.

“We continue to work hard to make our campuses as safe as possible for students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Higgins said.

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