The number of reported sex offenses around Occidental increased between 2011 and 2013 while drug violations fell over the same period, according to this year’s Annual Fire, Safety and Security Report (AFSSR). An unprecedented number of administrators and staff from around campus collaborated on the report, which provides an overview of both on- and off-campus crimes from the past three calendar years.
The majority of crimes mentioned in the report fell into one of three categories: sex offenses, drug law violations and liquor law violations.
The number of reported sex offenses rose from 12 incidents in 2011 to 64 incidents in 2013, although 34 of the cases reported in 2013 occurred in previous years. The uptick in the number of reported sex offenses is partially due to heightened awareness of Title IX concerns, reporting options and victim support on campus, according to Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Brett Schraeder and Project S.A.F.E. Manager and Survivor Advocate Naddia Palacios.
“The sex offense numbers are worth paying attention to,” Schraeder said. “We know that sex offenses are often underreported, so the positive view of the spike in reports means more people are coming forward.”
Both Schraeder and Palacios are part of the Clery Act Compliance team that worked on the report for three months. The team was led by Clery Act Administator Veronica Barsegyan, who was hired to ensure the college is compliant with all Clery Act policy. Barsegyan’s team also included Chief of Campus Safety Victor Clay, Title IX Coordinator Ruth Jones, Director of Residential Education and Housing Services Chad Myers, Associate Dean of Students Tim Chang, Director of Student Conduct and Housing Services Thomas Wesley and Director of Human Resources Richard Ledwin.
This is the first year there was campus-wide collaboration on the AFSSR report, which both Barsegyan and Schraeder believe led to more accurate reporting.
“Our big goal was for this [report] to be as transparent as possible,” Schraeder said. “The college is still under investigation for Clery reporting and we are moving toward getting things exactly right, and the college does need to earn the trust of the students back.”
Over the past three years, Occidental has come under fire from students, alumni and federal investigators for underreporting sexual assaults and failing to comply with Clery Act laws. In a preface to this year’s report, the college noted past errors in both under- and over-reporting, touching upon a notable abuse of the anonymous reporting system that resulted in nearly 600 false allegations of sexual assault.
A subsequent report, which will amend reports from previous years and also focus on crimes in non-Clery reportable areas, is slated for later this year. Schraeder stated that, although the college is not required to publish an additional report, they want to give students more clarity on safety in their community.
Barsegyan also advised that students take note of Occidental’s urban location when reviewing the crime numbers.
“Students should take into consideration that we are located in a metropolitan area and that every campus is unique,” Barsegyan said via email. “Therefore, it might be difficult to compare [with other colleges]. Numbers that may be average for one campus may not be for another, and vise versa.”
Despite the overall improvement in reporting practices, Palacios hopes there will be a time when she does not have to see crime statistics in these reports at all.
“I’m not sure that I’ll ever be satisfied by any results that show crime statistics, especially because I can attach a face to some of those numbers and understand that their stories are more than a number that is currently under scrutiny given the national discourse,” Palacios said via email.