Alcohol violations on campus increased 30% in 2018 over the previous year and the number of burglaries nearly tripled, according to a new report released by the university on Monday, Sept. 30.
The number of liquor law violations rose from 243 in 2017 to 316 in 2018 and the number of burglaries went from three to eight in the Clery report, which the university typically releases each fall.
The report is federally mandated by the Clery Act — a 1990 law named after Jeanne Clery, a student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania who was the victim of a violent crime that occurred on that campus. Under the law, all U.S. colleges and universities that receive federal money must disclose statistics of all crimes that occur in and around campus.
While the statistics for liquor law violations and burglaries may look like large increases, Director of Public Safety Steven Melaragno said it is important to keep the numbers in context for a university with a total student population of around 5,000.
“With a population the size that we have here at the university, one or two more or less incidents can look like a big difference when it really isn’t,” Melaragno said.
That means the burglary case numbers “appear artificially high,” Melaragno said. If someone walked into one room and stole something from three people, that would count as three separate burglaries, he explained.
But the report is “very beneficial” for prospective students, Melaragno added.
“It’s an accurate reflection of incidents that occur on campus that get reported, and it helps us to see trends,” he said.
Sexual assault statistics are divided into the categories of rape and fondling. There were eight reported rapes on campus in 2016, five in 2017 and six in 2018.
Reports of fondling totaled two in 2016, then four in 2017 and two in 2018.
There was also one case of motor vehicle theft last year, but according to Melaragno, it was just someone taking a ride on one of the university's golf carts.
Another reason why some numbers may have gone up is because the university has focused on helping people report crimes.
“One of the things we do well here is we encourage reporting,” Melaragno said. “We want the students to feel safe and secure and provide a good environment for them to pursue their higher education goals.”
Student Life Compliance Manager Heidi Hartzell said the number of liquor law violations fluctuates from year to year and that 2018’s 316, — while higher than 243 in 2017 and 306 in 2016 — is relatively normal.
“In years past it’s been higher,” Hartzell said.
She said the report is important to guide policy creation and inform potential students about campus life.
Melaragno said this year’s report shows we are a safe campus. “We’re not a dangerous campus at all,” he said.
“It’s an ongoing intake of information and analysis,” Hartzell said.