The Federal Clery Act requires most universities to publicize an annual safety report detailing yearly crime statistics for their campuses. As a student and journalist, I find this system highly flawed and the reports themselves shockingly incomplete.
According to Susan Sarapin, an associate professor of journalism and specialist in media law, research shows that around 20 percent of college females are sexually assaulted each year. For a campus the size of Troy’s, this means about 250 sexual assaults happen on campus in a given year. In 2017, Troy reported only two.
According to Herbert Reeves, the dean of student services, this discrepancy is due to a lack of students reporting such assaults.
This gap does not just occur at Troy. Even the largest universities in the state, such as Auburn and Alabama, report only about 15 sexual assaults per year.
Unfortunately, the laws regarding these reports only require events reported directly to the university or its police department to be recorded, meaning very few of the incidents that occur are included. Even if a student reports an assault to the city police, the report will not reflect that incident.
Although the reports are meant to inform students — both current and prospective — of their safety, these lax regulations mean crimes involving or affecting students can happen immediately off campus and never appear on these reports.
As a journalist, I see this happen far too often. The city of Troy Police Department is currently investigating a Troy student in connection with a murder that likely happened at the Pointe, a Troy apartment complex where many students live, but it is likely this incident will not be listed in the Troy University Annual Safety Report because it is being handled by the city police.
In 2017, the Tropolitan reported several instances of violence and harassment toward international students, but no reports of hate crimes appeared in the 2017 safety date because these events were never officially reported to the school.
As a student, it is incredibly frightening to know such violence can occur within a mile of my home and the reports that should tell me of such crimes never include them.
Although I am no lawyer, I know the current system needs work from all sides.
The federal government needs to ensure universities report crime statistics from local law enforcement agencies, especially those involving university students or locations frequented by those students such as apartment complexes, parks, downtown areas and even bars and restaurants.
Universities need to recognize that accurate reporting of these incidents does not make students feel unsafe, but rather shows them that their university cares for their safety. Publicizing this information shows true transparency in operation and thus, respect for students.
Lastly, students need to understand that reporting crimes is the only way to help ensure such crimes do not happen to others. Even seemingly small incidents, when reported and investigated, can provide a gateway for law enforcement and school officials to heighten safety for current and future students.
I encourage students to report any crime they see. Even if it seems small, your actions may have great positive consequences for those who come after you.