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Gaps in Clery Act create appearance of safe colleges

The number of sexual assaults against University of Arizona women is five times greater than what the university reports to federal authorities as required by law.

The Clery Act provides an accurate representation of rapes occurring on-campus, but misrepresents the bigger picture of rape statistics by not including rapes that occur even just one mile off campus.

Tucson Police Department investigated 717 cases of sexual offense and assault cases in a one-square mile radius of the UA campus between 2007-2017. The UA Police Department investigated 187 on-campus rapes in the same 10 years.

Of TPD’s 717 cases, 131 of them were reported from victims on campus, but not all occurred on campus.

Luis Puig has been with UAPD since 1996, and is now the record’s program coordinator and custodian. Since the agencies use the same system, he was able to determine 91 of these 131 cases were turned over by TPD because they occurred in UAPD’s jurisdiction. The other 40 cases remained investigated by TPD because they occurred at an off-campus location.

“I wish the Clery Act would address the need for other public law enforcement agencies to report their crime statistics as well,” Puig said. “Even though they aren’t occurring on campus, they are occurring in neighborhoods just outside of campus where students live.”

When TPD and UAPD’s rape cases are combined, a total of 904 sexual assaults occurred in the last 10 years on-campus, and in a mile radius around campus where most students live.

Therefore, an average of 90 rapes occur annually – not 18 as the UA’s Clery Report suggests. But, these data are not unique to the UA.

The Clery Act requires universities to publish annual reports of on-campus crime, and to have safety and security policies in place should students and faculty be in danger. Colleges are able to misrepresent these numbers because not all crimes are reported to university police departments, and those that aren’t are not included in the annual reports.

In a similar study at the Arizona Republic, reporters determined that if off-campus crimes just off of Arizona State University’s  Tempe campus were included in the Clery statistics, “the number of reported rapes/ sexual assaults would more than quadruple, robberies would increase 15 fold and aggravated assaults would jump more than 20 times.”

“It would be helpful to have the Clery Report represent those off-campus statistics. I think it would give a fuller picture of crime both on and just off of campus where many students live,” UAPD Violence Prevention Coordinator Thea Cola said. “If TPD would publish their findings, we could even include that separately to give a fuller picture. We could also work together to bridge the gaps in prevention measures to help reduce these crimes from occurring.”

The difference between these statistics includes that UA is, physically, a much tighter community than that of ASU. A majority of students at the UA typically only live within about one mile when they move off campus, whereas ASU students are much more spread out.

Importantly, statistics are always lower than the true number of rapes that occur. Vast numbers of victims (especially males) never even report their assault because of shame, guilt, embarrassment and even fear – of seeing their offender in court, or being judged and stereotyped by family, friends and even faculty.

Mackenzie Swaney is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at mackenzieswaney@email.arizona.edu. 

One Comment

  1. Anyone can access a police department’s UCR-1 crime stats (which include rape). There is no need for the Clery Act to cross over to non-affiliated locations.