Clery Disclosure Reveals Three-Year Crime Statistics
Issue   |   Wed, 09/21/2016 - 01:33

The Amherst College Police Department (ACPD) released the annual Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistic Act Report in an email sent to the college community on Monday, Sept. 12, divulging information about campus security and crime statistics from 2013 through 2015.

The document, which can be accessed online on the Amherst website, contains police procedures in responding to crime and emergencies as well as legal definitions of specific crimes like sexual assault. Statistics for the report were collected from the police department as well as from the Office of Student Affairs, the college’s health services and the counseling center.

Sex offenses, which include rape, statutory rape and forcible fondling and generally occurred in residential buildings, increased slightly from nine in 2013 to 12 in both 2014 and 2015. The number of burglaries, meanwhile, remained low with little variance over the last three years. Incidents of stalking varied little in number, ranging from four to six in the last three years, but the college saw an increase in domestic violence, which includes dating violence under state law, from one in 2013 to six per year in 2014 and 2015.

Chief of Police John Carter cautioned against noting these changes as emerging patterns. “When reported crime statistics are as small as ours, any variance does not reflect a major change,” Carter said in an email interview. “It doesn’t reflect a trend as much as an anomaly.”

Overall, Carter said, there has been little change in crime on campus, with property crimes such as theft and vandalism remaining the most prevalent.

“Theft is almost always a crime of convenience — an unattended laptop or a wallet left in plain view,” he said. “Vandalism is mostly internal to our community and is often related to alcohol use.”

While the Clery Act does not require reporting of either of these crimes, the police department does include them in the Massachusetts Open Police Log and Clery Log, available at the police office and published in The Amherst Student’s weekly Crime Log.

The most common violations cited in the report remained those of liquor laws, though the 76 violations in 2013 have decreased to 56 in 2015. Drug law violations referred for disciplinary action also fluctuated from 17 in 2013 and 30 in 2014 to none in 2015 after the state changed possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a crime to a civil infraction.

“The misuse of hard alcohol and its negative impact on the health and safety of our students remains a concern,” Carter said, adding that the police department seeks to partner with other offices on campus, including the Office of Student Affairs, Facilities, and student groups such as Student Security, ACEMS and the Peer Advocates of Sexual Respect, to educate students rather than to discipline.

The current Clery report included a caveat, which said that the police department “engaged in a new approach to underage drinking and marijuana usage. This resulted in a significant decrease in the number of arrests for both the alcohol and drug arrest categories.”

Carter said that a major component of addressing sex offenses was the department’s model of partnering and working with other offices as well as with students. The police department works with the Office of Student Affairs and Title IX to address campus safety as a whole. According to Carter, local partners such as the Amherst Town Police and Office of the District Attorney are also crucial in combatting crime.

The department also provides information on campus activity to those including the President, Chief Student Affairs Officer and Chief of Campus Operations.

Residential counselors are often a crucial link between the officers and residential life. Anna Vuong ’18, who has been an RC for two years, said that each year, RCs are given instructions on how to report crime.

“We’re all mandated reporters,” Vuong said. “So if it’s something to do with Title IX, for example, we have to report it.” To report a crime, RCs fill out an online form and describe the crime at hand, whether it had been dorm damage or sexual assault. Usually, Vuong said, RCs will receive an email from the relevant superiors, whether that is the Title IX coordinator or the Office of Student Affairs.

As an RC, Vuong has reported two instances of sexual harassment in which non-college people were catcalling her residents. In one case, ACPD stepped in, spoke with the offenders at hand and stopped the behavior.

Carter said that students should take the initiative in reaching out to the police in combating crime, especially the common crime of theft of personal property. “We can work together to minimize the opportunity for theft,” he said, adding that simply locking doors would reduce the chances of these crimes occurring.

The police cannot be everywhere at once, Carter said. “Reporting suspicious circumstances immediately allows us to intervene,” he said. “[We] rely on our community to be our eyes and report suspicious people and circumstances immediately.”