Campus Police Acknoweldge Omission of FSILG Crime StatsBy Douglas E. Heimburger
The Campus Police have admitted that they omitted statistical information about crimes in off-campus fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups from their federally-required crime summaries for the past five years.
The discovery came after The Tech requested crime statistics from the Boston Police for ILGs in the Boston area from 1990 until the present. "We didn't know that we had the problem"until the Boston Police contacted the Campus Police in connection with the request, said Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin. "We decided to check back and look at the incidents."
When the CampusPolice reviewed computer summaries of the incidents provided by the Boston Police department, they discovered that previous faxed summaries from the Boston Police had been falsely reporting that no crimes had occurred, Glavin said. "I was rather upset about it."
As a result, statistics for 1996 and 1997 were changed to include off-campus incidents reported to the CPs by Boston Police. The revised statistics were released along with the 1997 Annual Report of the MIT Campus Police Department.
Several serious crimes were uncovered, among them two forcible rapes which occurred in off-campus residences over the past two years. No forcible rapes occurred on campus during that time period.
The number of rapes and other sexual assaults is not surprising, said Glavin. "We continually say that the number of incidents of rape are more than those reported." The numbers being made available now are just "the tip of the iceberg,"Glavin said.
Two assaults which occurred off-campus during the past two years went unreported. The main campus saw 41 assaults during the same time period.
Over the coming days, the Campus Police will finish looking through Boston Police records back to 1992, when enforcement of the Campus Security Act began, and will post the final revised figures for all years to its site on the World Wide Web.
Statistics are required by law
Under the federal Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, all institutions of higher education that receive federal financial aid are required to publish statistical information about ten types of crime on campus, ranging from homicide to robbery and motor vehicle theft.
According to the law, "on campus"is defined not only to include the areas owned by a university, but also areas controlled by student groups such as ILGs. Every September, universities must make the statistical information available along with information on campus crime prevention policies.
In a few other incidents, the CPs failed to report incidents that the Boston Police had properly reported, Glavin said. "Some of our staff failed to realize" that the statistics needed to be included in the crime summary, Glavin said.
Police pledge more information
Following the discovery of these off-campus incident, the CPs pledged to provide better information about crimes at off-campus locations.
The Campus Police now make weekly requests for information from the BostonPolice Commissioner's Office instead of from the individual district offices, which is how the requests used to be made, Glavin said. The districts were using manual methods to report on statistics instead of using the more modern computer-based accounting system. "We've sorted it out with them,"Glavin added.
In the future, the Campus Police will likely publish statistics about off-campus ILG crimes on a semi-annual basis, Glavin said. Crimes will not be included in the police's weekly crime summary distributed via electronic mail, although the reports from the Boston Police will be available upon request.
In addition, the Institute's Audit Division will be making regular inspections of the CP's crime statistics to ensure that future discrepancies do not occur. "I would rather we find mistakes ourselves"instead of having them come out in other forms, Glavin said.
Sgt. Detective Margot P. Hill, press spokesman for the Boston Police, was unavailable for comment.
Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56, to whom the campus police report, was out of town and could not be reached for comment.
Problems are common
The discrepancies reported by thecampus police are not unique, said Mark Goodman, director of the Student Press Law Center, an independent non-profit corporation that provides free legal advice information and assistance to high school and college journalists around the nation. "My sense is it's all too common."
Many statistics reported in college's annual crime reports are difficult to verify, Goodman said, making it hard to determine whether campus police departments are complying with the law. "The research that has been done indicates that most schools that are investigated for compliance with the Act have been found to be in non-compliance in some material way."
While the Campus Security Act allows the Department of Education to withhold federal funding from schools not complying with the reporting requirements, that provision has never been exercised, Goodman said. "They're never going to take that kind of action against a school"unless the school flagrantly and defiantly refuses to comply with the law.
New legislation pending before Congress would increase penalties for noncompliance and could also make public student disciplinary records in cases where campus officials punish criminal incidents, Goodman said. However, it is unlikely that any substantive legislation will pass this year, he said.
In February, the police departments at both MIT andHarvard came under criticism for failing to accurately report crimes in their crime statistics. At that time, Glavin said MIT was in full compliance with the CampusSecurity Act.