Crime rates stay steady in SDSU’s safety report

By Pat Bowden Reporter

Available to all students, faculty and an extension of others, the annual safety report was released two weeks ago and shows that the crime rate numbers have generally stayed consistent with previous years. While the usual crimes have remained common, the harsher crimes are not expected to increase even as the student body continues to grow.

There is no formal professional analysis of the safety report; however, there is a committee that puts it together every year and they choose to include information that can help decrease and prevent crime on campus alongside the reported number of crimes by informing students of safety procedures and ways to avoid conflict.

“The report is about the numbers, the policies and the procedures so it’s not really what happened; it’s more just the number,” said, the Annual Security and Clery stats committee chair and Dean of Students, Sam Jennings. “My part is to chair the committee that puts the whole thing together.”

Jennings’ position entails overseeing the production of the annual safety report.

“We’re pretty close to on par with the past two years with no major increase or decrease in any particular category, but of course we would like to see zero crime rate and focus more on education and keep the negatives down,” Jennings said.

Although the report comes out in a delayed fashion since the committee started working on it before December, it serves as a way to show those who are concerned about their campuses safety how the numbers look per reported crime.

“[The safety report is] kind of a benchmark, but if it’s a difficult process or critical of the survivor it can be important … SDSU is very good in terms of sharing their information,” said Assistant Vice President for Safety and Security Donald Challis. “It’s more of a function of those who read it and interpret it, but I think it’s a recourse to show what the campus is doing to keep the community safe.”

While the numbers are up to personal interpretation, a continual concern to include in the report remains informing students of the best ways to protect themselves, make the best choices for themselves and to encourage reporting criminal incidents.

“It’s based on the numbers, but we have to ask if we have provided enough information to the faculty and students here on campus,” Challis said.

According to one student, campus is a safe place to live, with minimal crime being heard of.

“I think there’s a low crime rate here on campus and in the community, I guess I haven’t seen anything on campus and the only event I heard of was the car crash the first weekend we were here,” said freshman pre-pharmacy major Sarah Lehmann. “I feel safe on campus, I think there’s enough people around at all times to walk around and not be intimidated.”

While there are no recent murders or manslaughters reported, the highest crime on campus remains the underage possession of alcohol, which is also a high number in the past year’s safety report.

“The [other] numbers were consistent with other schools, but the alcohol violations of possessions under legal age are the biggest violation we see here. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing in the Midwest, maybe other schools take more relaxed approaches to it,” Challis said. “Dating violence, gender violence and other things are all new things we have to track, things we have to track, and they have increased the number of classifications in biased crime.”

The report shows that in 2013, there were 244 cases of liquor law violation arrests on campus compared to 251 in 2011, while there were 284 liquor law violations that resulted in referral to the campus judicial system in 2013 compared to 369 in 2011.

Lehmann doesn’t see the overall report results as concerning, and more or less expected these sorts of results before she arrived at college.

“Obviously being on a college campus there is going to be alcohol, and if that’s the highest crime I’m not concerned about my safety here, and if there were a safety concern they would contact us about it,” Lehmann said.

There is a campus alert system that notifies students via email and phone call if there is a tornado warning or other “extreme emergency,” according to a test notification sent out on Oct. 10. A recent development in the alert system is the Alertus Desktop notification system, which overrides any connected and registered screen when there is a major campus emergency, whether it be a professor’s laptop connected in Rotunda D or a student’s personal laptop.

Jennings agrees with Challis in terms of creating more awareness of what students can do to help themselves in a potential situation, and also believes that students should be more aware of these safety issues in order to personally feel safer when walking on campus.

“I would like to see more widespread knowledge of the [safety] policies and procedures. More importantly I hope they understand they are the ones that can prevent things and that they’re taking care of each other,” Jennings said. “Everybody should be aware of their surroundings, but they shouldn’t have to panic just because they’re outside. If you look at the statistics, I encourage people to compare us to similar institutions, and if students feel safe, that’s great.”

One instance of raising awareness outside of the annual safety report was the Title IX compliance training simulator that was sent out to students and required by all students and faculty in order to teach students how to handle these situations.  

“With the [compliance] training those sexual assault numbers might go up because people would be more comfortable reporting, but they definitely should know that they have options to report too,” Jennings said.

However, some students may feel discouraged from reporting a known crime due to complicated circumstances. 

“The concern over reporting is a social concern that they might lose their friends,” Jennings said.

A large emphasis lies on students doing the necessary procedures in order to ensure their own safety as well as others, according to both Challis and Jennings.

“The biggest part of my job is to raise awareness without causing panic. If we empower people to know what’s out there but not panic them, I think we’ve done our job. If somebody is acting strange call the police and be an active participant in your own safety,” Challis said. “I think we operate under the understanding that if you do the basic safety stuff, that can go a long ways.”

Jennings said that for a school the size of SDSU, there could be a much worse crime rate, and he attributes this lower crime rate to those who are the first line of defense against crime.

“More importantly I hope they understand they are the ones that can prevent things and that they’re taking care of each other,” Jennings said, referring the same procedures included in the annual safety report.

Even as the student body continues to grow, the crime rate for sexual assaults, burglaries and other similar crimes remains dormant, and this trend is expected to continue in years to come.

“We had a big growth spurt starting four or five years ago, and if we increased our student body by 10 percent I don’t think we would see a huge growth in these crime rates,” Challis said.

While efforts for student’s safety and safety awareness continue, students have suggestions to add to the institution.

“If they offered a self-defense class on campus that would be kind of nice,” Lehmann said.

Administration continues to pursue a higher amount of individuals who read the annual safety report, and to know how to contact somebody in case a situation may rise, according to Challis.

Jennings hopes that students understand the purpose of the safety report and take away what is most important from it.

“The takeaway is that the report is past tense and I would ask the community to look for ways for the community could help take care of themselves and others,” Jennings said.