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Quantifying crime on campus

The extent of campus crime and University Police’s presence on the USF campus has come under scrutiny recently, in light of tension between University Police and USF over understaffing and officer compensation.

A law which provides “Clery” statistics may answer questions students have about campus crime. The statistic also indicates where USF stands compared to other universities.

Formerly named the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), the federal law obliges all public and private colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs to submit current information about campus crime and security policies annually, according to Security On Campus, Inc. A non-profit organization, Security On Campus, Inc., is formed by the creators of the Clery Act and named after the daughter of Howard and Connie Clery, Jeanne, who was murdered at Lehigh University in 1986.

The Clery Act makes a comparison of university crime statistics manageable. Each college or university submits data by October every year, which is then organized by the type of crime.

Crimes include criminal homicide, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson.

Some categories are broken down into subsets. Criminal homicide is split between murder, non-negligent manslaughter, and negligent manslaughter. Sexual offenses are divided between forcible sex offenses (including rape) and non-forcible sex offenses. Also, schools are required to report three types of incidents if they result in an arrest or referral: liquor law violations, drug law violations and illegal weapons possession.

USF’s crime rates for 2006 are consistent for most categories when compared with the three other biggest public schools in the state – the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU).

The significant differences between USF and other universities are in burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. FSU is the highest for liquor law and drug law violations.

In 2006, 111 burglaries were reported on campus for USF.

UCF is most like USF in terms of crime and demographics. Both schools are located in metropolitan areas and have a similar number of students. However, UCF reported only 21 burglaries in 2006. “There is no explanation for the difference,” said Lieutenant Meg Ross, “it has, historically, always been like this.”

FSU has jumped in the number of burglaries over the last two years, from 52 in 2005 to 78 in 2006. However, FSU offers reasons for increase as a caveat to their statistics.

According to the FSU Safety Guide, during the 2005-2006 school year, the FSU police department expanded their local law enforcement data inquiries to include the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida A&M University Police, Florida Highway Patrol and Beverage Enforcement.

Although USF’s burglary rate has decreased between 2005 and 2006 – from 208 to 111 – it is still in the lead. “The area we’re in plays a part. Most offenders are not affiliated with the University,” she said. USF has not changed its jurisdiction or ways of crime reporting and responding.

In motor vehicle theft, USF leads with 48 thefts while UCF reported 7. These statistics include golf carts, which constitutes as grand theft auto if stolen. “Students do not realize that when they go for a joy ride in a golf cart that isn’t theirs, they’re stealing,” said Ross.

USF’s metropolitan location leads to high crime rates, according to Ross. It’s not the students committing crimes, it’s those not affiliated with USF coming onto campus to conduct criminal activity, she said.

Amy Mariani can be reached at (813) 974-6299 or