A commendation of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at our university is overdue and in order.January 2006 was a bad month for the DPS. The Philadelphia Inquirer published a disturbing investigative article exposing the fact that the department had been violating a federal law called the Clery Act. The act requires colleges and universities to annually count and report crimes such as murder, aggravated assault and robbery that occur on or near campus. The Inquirer investigation also found that the Department had been mis-reporting crimes considered to be less serious such as drug and liquor law violations. After the Inquirer piece ran and The Quad wrote a short follow-up story, the Department familiarized itself with the laws they were mandated to follow, and took steps to assure that they would be followed then and in the future.
The summer of 2006-particularly late July, August and early September-was a major turning point in how the DPS reported crimes, not only to the government, but to students, faculty and members of the University community. Between July 31 and Sept. 9, WCU students were the butts of six separate attacks on or near campus. Other attacks prior to July 31 and after Sept. 9 were also reported. The DPS, for each of the attacks that took place, released a campus alert that was sent to all faculty mailboxes, forwarded to students and posted in dozens of high traffic locations around campus. Today, students can sign up to have them e-mailed directly to them. They can also sign up to have major campus alerts and warnings texted to their cell phones. Both services are free.
We believe this type of communication is paramount to keeping our university safe, and we commend the DPS for opening the communication lines to students and community members.
As required by the Clery Act, colleges and universities must make their crime statistics available to the public. All of the universities within the Penn. State System of Higher Education have published their statistics on their Web sites. The Quad is currently conducting an analysis of all of the statistics for an article to appear in a future issue; however, we can say with confidence that the statistics WCU makes available are far more detailed and more conclusive than all of the other state schools. We commend the DPS for this as well.
What is discouraging is the number of liquor law violations cited at our school. One in 23 WCU students were arrested or judicialed for a liquor law violation on- or around campus in 2006. That’s down from one in 18 in 2005 and one in 16 in 2004. Nothing, other than students’ irresponsibility and a complete disregard for the law, can explain these figures. If our campus police don’t have to spend so much time citing students for liquor law violations, they could have more of a presence on the streets on and around campus-making your walk home at 2 a.m. safer.
Below you will find some of the statistics from the 21-page DPS report. We have the link to the entire report on our Web site, www.wcuquad.com.
Despite our front page article this week, the Department of Public Safety deserves to be recognized for the improvements they have made to their crime reporting and communication systems. Other University departments, organizations and offices should take note of what has been done. Open access and communication is key to a functioning and accountable university.