A new state law will force colleges across California to be more forthcoming about crime on their campuses, but UCSB officials say that’s OK because the school is already candid as can be.
Assembly Bill 2533, introduced by Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) earlier this year, was signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis late last month. The bill expands federal requirements requiring universities that participate in federal student aid programs to report crime statistics on and around their campuses.
The California Campus Crime Audit Bill, passed unanimously in both houses of the California Legislature, requires the state auditor to sample six universities in California every three years to verify the accuracy of the campus crime statistics reported as required by the Clery Act. The bill was motivated by newspaper reports alleging inaccuracies in campus crime reports, Jackson said.
“I had read an article in the Sacramento Bee that was following the Clery Act,” she said. “It turns out that most colleges were not following mandates to fully and accurately report incidences of crime on campuses. This bill is designed to encourage California universities to comply with that.”
Jackson spokeswoman Janice Rocco said the bill is meant for schools throughout the state and was not directed at UCSB.
“It was a statewide affair; we felt that it was very important the legislation address crimes that occur on the campus and surrounding areas,” Rocco said. “Parents need to know that information before sending their children to college.”
In 1986 Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old freshman at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University, was sexually assaulted and murdered in her campus residence hall room by a student she did not know. Lehigh University had not informed students about 38 violent crimes on campus in the three years preceding her murder.
In response, Congress enacted the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, renamed the Clery Act in 1998, requiring universities to report statistics in seven categories including homicide, sex offenses, robbery, assault, burglary, automobile theft and arson. UCSB is a model example of comprehensive and accurate reporting, said Special Projects Coordinator Barbara Ortiz, director of Clery Act statistics at UCSB.
“We have always been in the forefront of campus crime reporting,” she said. “If we’re audited, we’re fine. In fact, if there were an audit, I would be really proud.”
Arrests from the UCPD, Isla Vista Foot Patrol and Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department are compiled in pertinent categories for UCSB’s annual report. Anonymous crime reports are also gathered from coaches, councilors and advisers to student groups along with referrals from judicial officers.
“The Clery Act asks for a variety of statistics from a variety of people,” Ortiz said. “We report everything. We even report crime we don’t have to report. We do it out of good faith.”
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young further emphasized the credibility of UCSB crime statistics. The university makes every effort to report accurate statistics and information regarding where those statistics can be found, he said.
“We’ve historically provided more data than required by law,” he said. “We want people to know about not just the immediate vicinity of campus but the greater region as a whole. We’re required by law to make sure every member of the community is aware of the crime statistics and how to access them.”
– Staff Writer Sarah Gorback also contributed to this article.