By Alexis Schulz
The 2014 Clery report shows a drop in the number of burglary offenses, liquor law violations and drug violations on both the Princeton and Lawrenceville campuses, as well as a slight increase in sex offenses.
The Clery report provides information to prospective and current students, families and employees, allowing them to make informed decisions, according to Debbie Stasolla, associate vice president for university planning.
“The report is an opportunity to remind us all that safety is a shared responsibility,” she said. “Obviously there are things we need to do as a university. What this kind of report does is share statistical information of the types of crimes or issues that we deal with. But there is also a lot of policy information that helps people understand and feel better about where they’re learning or working.”
Liquor arrests at the Lawrenceville campus were down from eight in 2013, to six in 2014. Lawrenceville also saw a decrease in drug arrests from 23 in 2013, to 19 in 2014. Liquor and drug arrests on the Princeton campus stayed at zero. Stasolla said the university did not institute any policies or procedures in 2014 that would prompt the decrease.
“None of our policies have changed at all,” she said. “The major policy changes that have occurred in the last two years would be the anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy. But those are not the numbers you saw drop drastically.
“Burglary is an example, and we look at ourselves and say, ‘Did we do anything different in the last year beyond what we normally do?’ I don’t think so.”
Stasolla said the university does make changes in response to specific events. For example, the recent incidents in West Village prompted Residence Life and Public Safety to institute a “knock and lock” program. In addition, when burglaries occur in residence halls, RAs are instructed to hold meetings to remind students to be on their guard.
Stasolla said some variations in the Clery report this year reflected changes in Rider’s anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies in response to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) regulations published last year.
“VAWA amended Clery to allow institutions to indicate when law enforcement determines that a particular crime that was reported was ultimately found to be unfounded or baseless,” she said. “That was not something we were able to do before. Another major change is that VAWA now requires institutions to include the definition of certain crimes with the definition that applies within the local jurisdiction.”
This change means that in a burglary or domestic violence incident, the report shows whether Rider is counting one offense per incident or one offense per victim.
Fondling incidents rose from one in 2013 to two in 2014 on the Princeton campus, and went up
on the Lawrenceville campus from zero in 2013 to two in 2014. Rape cases went down from two in 2013 to zero in 2014 for the Lawrenceville campus, and remained at zero for the Princeton campus. Domestic violence on the Lawrenceville campus also rose from two in 2013 to five in 2014, but remained steady at zero for the Princeton campus.
Stasolla said the sex offense statistics could have gone up because of heightened awareness or increased occurrences, but any inference can be taken both ways.
“When you’re talking about numbers that are relatively small, you could look at it as ThinkLove is raising awareness and encouraging people to come forward,” she said. “But then sometimes it could be that more [incidents are] occurring. I don’t know what the right answer is, particularly when we’re still talking about small numbers.
“But what these tell us is that we have to keep doing what we’re doing, be vigilant and recognize that we always have a changing audience. We always have new students, and we’re also trying to send a message to students that have probably heard this before. We have got to find creative ways to keep at it.”
Nicholas McManus, junior information systems major, said he has not seen any difference in campus life and was surprised that the numbers had dropped.
“I haven’t seen a difference myself in student behavior, but I think campus crime is getting more attention than it used to,” he said.
There is a lot of coordination that goes into reporting Clery statistics, but Rider works closely with Lawrence Township Police and Princeton Police to make sure that all reporting is accurate, Stasolla said.
“Our Clery compliance officer keeps track of all the different instances that occur on campus,” she said. “He works very closely with the office of community standards to make sure that, if any of these crimes occur on our campuses, we keep track of all of them throughout the year. We also work closely with Lawrence Township Police and Princeton Police. If they’re aware of something that we may not be, we usually inform each other.
“We make sure after the calendar year that we touch base with one another, and make sure we haven’t missed anything.”
Most reports come through Public Safety, but many incidents are also reported through Residence Life. According to Stasolla, the university continues to work with Residence Life and the Office of Community Standards to ensure that all reporting is accurate.
“Not all code-of-conduct violations are Clery reportable,” she said. “We have to make sure that we are all coordinated. If someone reports something like an alcohol violation, and it’s recorded through Residence Life, our Clery compliance officer needs to be aware of that. We use the same system to keep track of incident reports, but we have to make sure that we’re not double-counting or missing things.”
Stasolla said the Clery report keeps the Rider community informed of all crimes and instances of fire on campus, and allows students, faculty and staff to be better educated on their school or workplace.
“The report keeps us all informed about what is going on our campuses, and what resources and procedures we need to know, should we be involved in any kind of crime or fire-related incident,” she said.