Crime on Campus: Smith Releases Annual Clery Report

Katherine Hazen ’18
News Editor

Last week, Smith released the 2014 Clery report, a review which details all crimes that take place on a campus within a calendar year. Smith’s report also includes fire safety statistics in its version of the report.    

Every institution of higher education is required to release a Clery report per federal mandate under the Jeanne Clery Act, a consumer protection law passed in 1980.  In addition to providing data on campus crimes, the report must also outline policies and procedures under both the Clery Act and Title IX.

“[The] crime data is collected from campus security authorities across campus, and health services voluntarily provides it,” said Jeanne Tripp, manager of administrative operations for the Campus Police Department of Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith Colleges. Tripp was tasked with creating the Clery report for each of the three colleges.

However, as professor of economics Mariana Zapryanova said, “The campus crime data – as all crime data – only includes crimes that were [for the most part] reported to the police or the school officials by the victim.”

“A natural worry, therefore, is how many and what type of offenses were not reported,” said Zapryanova, whose research has focused on the economics of crime, adding, “Crime statistics are taking on even more importance as U.S. News & World Report and other college-ranking publications use them to measure campus safety [which] might create incentives for underreporting as well.”     

Although the raw data is open to error and interpretation, Smith experienced a spike in burglary on campus this past year, with 23 in total, 13 of which were in campus houses.  By comparison, there were only 10 on campus burglaries in total in 2013.

“A slew of things were stolen from student rooms; even though oftentimes the student’s room was unlocked, it is still counted as a burglary,” said Tripp.

Despite the high incidence of burglary, students remain trusting, as Ilana Schiller-Weiss ’18 said. “I feel really comfortable leaving my stuff in the house. It’s a safe place,” she said.

Burglary numbers seem high at Smith when compared to those at Mount Holyoke –  a campus similar in size and student body – which experienced eight on-campus burglaries in 2014.

While liquor law violations are on a general decreasing trend at Smith, from 67 referrals in 2012, to 55 in 2013 and finally to 36 in 2014, the comparison is again stark between the College and its peer institutions.  Mount Holyoke accounts for one referral in their report for 2014, and Wellesley College accounts for eight.

The same comparison is evident for drug law violations between the schools, which are all located in Massachusetts, a state with lenient marijuana possession laws.

Tripp cautioned against extrapolating too much from any assumed trends, saying “We’re fortunate that the numbers are very low … You may see a fluctuation of a few cases each year … but nothing that’s a huge decrease in percent.”

Sexual assault proves harder to account for and is where the comprehensiveness of the Clery report is questioned.    

There are no recorded cases of assault occurring in the 2014 calendar year; instead, “one sexual assault reported in 2014 occurred in 2007; one reported in 2013 occurred in 2012 and two sexual assaults reported in 2012 occurred in 2011,” the report states.

Mount Holyoke recorded two assaults for 2014, and Wellesley recorded six for the same year.  While the number of assaults for Smith in 2014 is currently zero, that is subject to change as survivors come forward to report in their own time. The numbers may reflect a visibility of resources on campus.

“Both [at Mount Holyoke and Smith], we’re fortunate to have very small numbers [of sexual assaults], three or four a year for the past few years at Smith, but again there are some that aren’t reported,” Tripp said. “They remain luckily low.”

The Clery report does not directly reflect perceptions of safety on campus. “I’ve never been given any reason not to feel safe on campus,” said Isabella Tagliati ’19.

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