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Here’s what this year’s Clery crime reports say about Utah State and Southern Utah universities

A sign shows the dormitories at Utah State University, Sept. 2, 2020, in Logan, Utah.
Rick Bowmer
AP, file
A sign shows the dormitories at Utah State University, Sept. 2, 2020, in Logan, Utah.

Universities and colleges that receive federal funding recently published their crime statistics for 2021 as required under the Clery Act. Utah State University’s police chief said while he believes the information in the school’s annual security report is accurate, it likely does not contain the data that students and their families care most about.

The Clery Act requires that postsecondary institutions receiving federal funding publish and disseminate an annual security report by Oct. 1. The report includes statistics about crimes like aggravated assault, domestic violence and liquor law violations.

The data is limited to crimes that happen on campus, non-campus property that is either owned by the college or by a student organization that is officially recognized by the school, or public property immediately adjacent to the campus.

This year’s annual security report comes after a state legislative audit last spring that identified potential data entry errors in the annual security reports put out by Snow College, Utah Tech University, Utah State University, Utah Valley University, Weber State University, University of Utah, and Salt Lake Community College. The audit only looked for potential errors in data from 2016 to 2019.

Jake Johnson, Southern Utah University’s Clery compliance officer, said SUU’s crime statistics for 2021 are overall pretty similar to the 2020 and 2019 numbers. He said there were more on-campus liquor law violations in 2021 compared to the previous two years, including arrests and referrals for noncriminal university discipline.

The university also reported fewer instances of stalking, rape and domestic violence in 2021 compared to 2020 and 2019. There was one report of stalking on campus in 2021, three in 2020 and 11 in 2019.

Johnson said it is hard to tell what exactly caused these fluctuations, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic started, there were fewer events on college campuses and people avoided large gatherings. Johnson said that could have impacted why some of the numbers have changed over the last few years.

As for the reason why things like stalking, rape and domestic violence decreased, Johnson said he wants to believe it’s because the campus is a safer place to be. He said it could also be because of underreporting.

“It’s just really hard to say. Clery is a law that is based off of people reporting things to you,” Johnson said. “And so it’s really hard to explain why people do or they don’t report.”

At Utah State University, the number of burglaries reported went up at the school’s main Logan campus, with eight in on-campus housing in 2021 and zero reported in 2020 and 2019. Erik Christensen, an executive officer with the school’s police department, said there was an incident in 2021 where two individuals stole from multiple dorm rooms. And while that was a single event, Christensen said each instance of theft was counted as a separate instance of burglary.

The number of reported rapes at USU’s main campus also went up between 2021 and the previous two years.

Besides the increases in those two categories, Christensen said the school’s latest security report looks largely similar to past years.

USU Police Chief Blair Barfuss is confident in the data that is in this year’s annual security report and said it is reflective of the crimes that are reported to the university.

Since these annual security reports only include crime statistics for limited geographic areas, like on campus, Barfuss said they may not be the most beneficial to students and their families if they are trying to figure out how safe a school is.

“I think most people want to know what the surrounding area looks like, for safety and security for students that may live off campus versus on campus,” Barfuss said. “So that when parents and potential students are looking at universities that they want to attend, they have a full picture of what crime reported.”

Barfuss said the reason schools do not include information in their annual security reports about off-campus crime statistics that involve students is because that is not required by the Clery Act and because schools do not have jurisdiction in those areas.

“Logan City or Cache County is responsible for crime in their jurisdiction. We now need to figure out a way that we can work collaboratively to crime map, maybe on a county level or maybe on a state level,” he said.

Martha is KUER’s education reporter.
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