slides: 10 Oregon Colleges With The Most Reported Crime
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
U.S. colleges and universities are required by federal law to submit statistics on crimes that are reportedly committed on campus each year. Reports are issued by campus security or school staff and include incidents involving students and non-students alike. Reports do not necessarily reflect arrests or convictions.
“Crime on college campuses is something that is a huge interest and importance, and one that doesn’t have a lot of easy answers,” said Kelly McIver, public information officer with the University of Oregon Police Department. “I’m sure it’s something every university takes very seriously.”
A sexual assault incident was reported at University of Oregon on Jan. 17th, after a party at the dorms. The woman was allegedly drugged and later sexually assaulted. At least 39 sexual assaults were reported at the university last year. The University of Oregon reported 267 criminal offenses on campus between 2009 and 2013, the second highest for any Oregon university. Other large schools—Portland State University and Oregon State University—also saw top the list for schools with the largest numbers or reported crimes over the same period.
However, the smaller campuses of Reed College and the Oregon Health and Science University, schools of around 2,000 students had much higher rates of reported crimes per capita. In 2013, Reed reported 21 crimes for every 1,000 students, compared to Portland State’s University 3.6 crimes per 1,000 students.
GoLocalPDX analyzed the crime reporting for Oregon’s largest private and public colleges and universities. The Department of Education releases information on the number of criminal complaints for crimes of murder, negligent manslaughter, forcible and non forcible sexual offense, aggregated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
Slideshow Below: 10 Oregon Colleges With The Most Reported Crime
Nationally, burglary is the most common crime on campuses of 10,000 or more students, followed by motor vehicle theft and sexual assault.
For most of the top Oregon schools, property crimes such as auto theft and burglary were by far the most common type, while forcible sexual assaults were next. Property crimes were over double the amount of sexual assaults for the ten campuses with the highest crime per capita, except for Lewis and Clark University, Concordia University, and Reed College.
Phil Zerzan, chief of campus safety at Portland State University, said that location, population, and demographics are the main drivers for the types of crimes that occur on any one campus. PSU had over 500 crimes reported in five years, with burglary the leading complaint.
Zerzan said people will generally report thefts or when their cars are broken into. In some cases, just one active offender can jack up crime rates for an area, according to Zerzan.
Although these reports give an idea of criminal activity taking place on college campuses, some experts question how accurate they are. Sexual assaults are largely considered to be underreported on campuses, according to Robin Gray, executive editor of Campus Safety Magazine.
“Getting folks to report crimes, specifically sexual assault, is really challenging,” Gray said. “Sometimes they won’t report a crime because don’t feel confident anything can be done.”
Reed College attributes their high sexual abuse statistics to a rigorous reporting system. The college had not only the highest reported crime per capita of any large college in Oregon, but some some of the highest total reports for sexual assaults. Reed Spokesman Kevin Myers said the college has increased efforts to encourage reporting.
“It’s attributed to doing more outreach and education to create an environment where people will be confident to come forward,” Myers said.
For the rest of the college’s reported crimes, Myers said they mostly consist of non-violent crimes of opportunity, such as bike theft.
Reporting Sexual Assault
The Center for Public Integrity found in 2009 many schools around the nations have skewed sexual assault reports.
Gray said that as many schools around the U.S. have pushed towards better handling of sexual assault claims, the number of reports have risen.
“In some ways, I trust campuses that have higher rates of reported incidents,” Gray said. “It means they are more transparent and they have better relations with staff and students so people feel more comfortable coming forward."
Having the right support systems available to students can help with accurate reporting, according to the Women’s Resource Center at Southern Oregon University. Coordinator Mary Zest said larger cities such as Portland or Eugene have more community organizations to offer support for students who fall prey to abuse. However, small communities do not offer the same resources.
“It’s harder to access those partner organizations in a smaller city,” Zest said. “We are the only organization that is addressing these issues.”
Support systems are crucial to making students fell safe and to be comfortable reporting crimes, Zest said. The Resource Center works to reach out to students so they know what resources are available to them if trouble occurs.
Schools have increased campus security and policies over the recent years, after school shootings like the one at Virginia Tech. Over the last year, both OHSU and PSU have taken steps to add armed police to their campus security.
Gray said many school’s safety precautions, such as increased surveillance cameras or a bigger emphasis on reporting, has helped deter crime.
“Once criminals find out they can’t get away with things and there’s a crackdown on crime, criminals who commit crimes of opportunity will go elsewhere,” Gray said.
Representing True Crime
Campus security staff says the yearly reports can give a good picture of crime on campus if the data is handled correctly and taken into account with other factors.
College and university campuses tend to be safer places than surrounding communities, according to Gray. In 2012, the City of Portland experienced 44 burglaries per every 1,000 resident. In the same year, Portland’s biggest schools had less than 5 burglaries per 1,000 students, except for OHSU which had close to 18.
However, campuses also are an attractive target for criminals, McIver said, because students bring valuable equipment, such as laptops and bikes, to a concentrated area.
“It’s well known [colleges] have a high [concentration] of valuable property all crammed into a loose area. It’s also known there’s a largely distracted population that may not have learned life-lessons of how to safeguard things,” McIver said. “It’s always going to be an issue.”
Related Slideshow: 10 Oregon Colleges With The Most Reported Crime
Public and private universities are required to report criminal offenses every year, under the federal Jeanne Clery Act. GoLocalPDX analyzed the reports, made public through the Department of Education, for data from 2009 through 2013.
The ranking is based on the average reported crime over five years, per 1,000 students.