Clery Act Report Shows 2018 Crime Trends

A Public Safety van in Ben West Parking Lot.

On October 1st, the Public Safety released the Annual Fire Safety and Security Report, as required by the Clery Act, which provides information and statistics about crimes reported on college campuses. The report details data for crimes that happen on Swarthmore’s campus. The report was updated with minor changes to the data on October 3. The report also includes data on hate crimes and Violence Against Women Act crimes.

Following the 272% increase in alcohol referrals in 2017 from 2016, there were 28 more referrals in 2018 than in 2017, an approximately 30% increase from 2017. An alcohol referral means that a student was referred to the Dean’s office and potentially subjected to disciplinary action. A liquor law arrest refers to an arrest for underage drinking. For Swarthmore students, this most commonly occurs when underage students are transported to the hospital due to alcohol-related illness. The increase in alcohol referrals is coupled with a fall in liquor law arrests. Only eight students were arrested for liquor law violations, down from eighteen in 2017. There were 44 drug law referrals in 2018, compared to 50 in 2017. There was one drug law arrest in 2018.

Swat Team Manager Rose Ridder ’20 believes that the trend of rising referrals and falling arrests for alcohol-related offenses is a positive change since referrals for students serve as preventative measures and have less serious consequences than arrests.

“Seeing [referrals] go up and arrests go down to me is a positive thing,” Ridder said. “[Referrals] are a much less terrifying and serious mark compared to an arrest … Referrals are more of an early intervention measure,” she said.

The report also documents sex offenses that are reported to Public Safety. 

Clery reports for sex offenses, which the Clery Act specifies as rape, fondling, incest, or statutory rape, fell in 2018, although this figure likely does not reflect the actual number of sex offenses on Swarthmore’s offenses, because sex offenses are typically underreported crimes. In 2018, there were six reported rapes and three reported instances of fondling, down from ten and eleven instances, respectively, in the year prior. There were no reported instances of incest or statutory rape in 2018.

There was also one reported instance of domestic violence and seven reported instances of dating violence in 2018. All of them were reported to have taken place in residential facilities. 

These figures do not necessarily represent the actual number of sex offenses that happened on campus in 2018. Sex crimes often go unreported. Further, when the Title IX office receives an initial report, they do not ask for additional information, such as the location, unless the student provides it. If the survivor does not specify a location and does not file a formal complaint, then that Title IX report would not go into the Clery Act, because it is not known where the offense took place. 

“When someone reports something to me I do not need the full narrative about what occurred — my focus is their well-being. I do not ask in that initial conversation about the who, what, where, when, and why unless the person is offering that information of their own free will,” said Director of Title IX Bindu Jayne. 

“Title IX reports are often provided without complete information, including the location of the incident. Therefore, there are certainly situations where [if] I had information about where it occurred, they would have also been Clery reports.”

Jayne also noted the importance of prevention education — education provided to students about gender-based violence — and its impact on the number of reported sex offenses. 

“Prevention education can drive numbers in both directions … If we provide more education, an effect will be that people know their resources and how to report and we could expect that our numbers would go up. On the flip side, prevention education ideally would meet the goal of preventing sexual misconduct and numbers would go down.” 

In addition to alcohol violations and sex offenses, the report also reflects that there were two referrals for illegal weapons possessions. According to Director of Public Safety Mike Hill, both instances were reports made by college employees to Public Safety.

“Both were reported to Public Safety by a college employee. In one instance a bullet was found in a residence hall room. In the second instance, a large knife was reported in a residence hall room.”

There were no burglaries or hate crimes reported to Public Safety in 2018. 

The report was also updated to reflect changes to previous years’ data. An instance of arson in 2016 was removed from the report after Public Safety deemed that the incident did not actually constitute arson. 

“Further review of the analysis indicated that the incident did not rise to the level of an arson. The definition of arson is, ‘… any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.’ I seem to recall that … a group of students set a … shirt on fire,” Hill said.

The Annual Fire Safety and Security report comes out at the end of September each year. 

Laura Wagner

Laura '20 is from Dover, Delaware. She is in the honors program studying political science and economics. Outside of the classroom and the newsroom, her interests include running, politics, and really good books.

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