New Annual Security and Fire Safety Report Released

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SHARELINES

UConn has posted its new Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, a detailed overview that reflects the University’s commitment to providing the most comprehensive, stringently accurate data to the campus community.

The UConn Division of Public Safety posted the report for calendar year 2014 on Friday on its website and distributed the link electronically as part of its compliance with federal and state law, and in the interest of informing all enrolled students, faculty and staff on this important subject.

UConn compiles its report annually in compliance with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act and Connecticut Public Act 12-78, An Act Concerning Sexual Violence on College Campuses.

While numbers in some categories in UConn’s new report increased significantly between 2013 and 2014, the primary cause is more collaboration between various parts of the University community to better capture and record all known incidents and allegations, particularly those that come to the attention of campus officials beyond law enforcement.

Those officials, known as “campus security authorities,” comprise up to 800 people who regularly interact with students in their roles as resident assistants, coaches, faculty advisers, and other on-campus authorities.

The University has significantly increased training for those officials so they better understand that they are legally required to report every allegation or incident of which they become aware. That training is a driving factor behind the increases in the report this year, as the campus security authorities have increasingly understood and complied with their mandated reporting responsibilities.

UConn Police has also formed a department specifically to collect and analyze Clery-reportable data, and that office – along with the Office of Diversity and Equity and others on campus – have added online tools by which people can more easily notify authorities of an incident or allegation.

“We are working very hard to educate people on their reporting responsibilities and to give them more methods by which to do so, and reviewing every incident closely to ensure it is appropriately categorized,” said Barbara O’Connor, UConn’s police chief and director of public safety. “Typically, the more of that you do, the more comfortable people will be with reporting and having confidence in the process, particularly in discussing sensitive crimes such as sexual assault.”

In the case of sexual violence crimes, the increased numbers from 2013 to 2014 in the new Clery report are largely attributable to a jump in reports from campus security authorities, along with significant outreach services through the Office of Diversity and Equity and other University offices involving this traditionally underreported crime.

Of the 43 sexual assaults reported in 2014, the Police Department received 17 reports directly from individuals. The rest came to police from campus security authorities, including Residential Life and Student Affairs.

The Office of Diversity and Equity has also increased the information available online to help victims of sexual assault receive support and file reports, including through their newly revamped website on sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking awareness.

“Increased sexual assault reporting tells us that more individuals are feeling comfortable coming forward to share their stories,” said Elizabeth Conklin, UConn’s associate vice president in charge of the Office of Diversity and Equity and Title IX Coordinator, the official responsible for monitoring compliance with federal Title IX regulations.

“They know where and how to report, and understand that they will receive support following a disclosure of sexual violence,” she said. “This is so important, because it allows the University and the Police to respond to these crimes by offering a range of support services to victims and conducting investigations, which helps to protect the entire campus community.”

The new UConn report also shows figures for crimes such as dating violence and stalking have increased due to more required reporting from campus security authorities, and because of updated methods of classifying incidents and reporting under rules of the federal Violence Against Women Act, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2013.

Disciplinary referrals and arrests for alcohol violations on UConn’s campuses also increased between 2013 and 2014, a number driven primarily by reports from resident assistants whose required training now emphasizes that informing police of such incidents they encounter in the dorms is mandatory, not discretionary.

In some cases, categories showed an increase due to stepped-up analysis of the factual elements of the incidents themselves.

For instance, some small fires set on campus – such as singeing a piece of furniture in a dorm or lighting a paper on fire – might previously have been deemed vandalism or criminal mischief. Due to the fact that the incident involved intentional burning, though, those are now categorized as arson, causing this year’s increase from zero to 11 such reports.

The establishment of the Clery Compliance Department, the increased level of training of campus security authorities, and other measures come after UConn commissioned an independent review in 2012 of how it compiled Clery Act data.

While the independent review found no deficiencies in campus safety, UConn has been implementing its recommendations to compile the most accurate, comprehensive document possible in compliance with the intent of the Clery Act.