CARBONDALE – The reports are out, the stats are tabulated.
Oct. 1 marked the deadline for release nationwide of campus crime data, in compliance with the Clery Act and the Violence Against Women Act. So, how did Southern Illinois University fare compared to its sister public institutions in Illinois?
In 2014, SIU logged 40 burglaries – the highest per-person burglary rate of all 12 public universities in Illinois. Rates of rape, stalking, and drug and alcohol arrests also fell in the top echelon.
SIU police Sgt. Chad Beights emphasized, as he and Chief Benjamin Newman have in the past, that enhanced education and enforcement drove numbers up this year.
“Across the board, our numbers are up because of the education and the training we’ve done for our students and staff on awareness and reporting of crimes,” he said. “We took an unprecedented (step) … in training every incoming student in sexual assault awareness, and every employee at SIU went through training.”
Federal law requires training, but not of all staffers.
In terms of other crimes, Beights said burglaries tend to vary from year to year, and enhanced enforcement efforts drove alcohol and drug infractions up.
SIU’s rates of robbery, arson and motor vehicle theft ranked in the lower half when compared with Illinois’s public universities.
There were 13 reports of rape on campus in 2014 – a jump of nine over 2013. That’s 0.72 rapes per 1,000 students.
Still, thanks to changing regulations, sexual-assault data proves difficult to analyze. In 2013, provisions in the Violence Against Women Act mandated changes to the way campus police officials report incidents of sexual assault. Even though the new rules took effect this past year, more than half of Illinois’s public universities have failed to comply with the changes.
SIU police followed the new reporting practices. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville – and six other universities – did not.
(SIUE police Lieut. Dustin Brueggemann said the change was not clearly described in the government’s guidance. A reporting template provided to universities even failed to include the change, he said.)
That discrepancy means uniform reporting – intended to offer an apples-to-apples look at crime across campuses – is not so uniform after all.
So, while SIU, Western Illinois University and all three campuses of the University of Illinois system reported rape, forcible fondling, incest and statutory rape as separate categories, all other institutions grouped them together into either forcible or non-forcible sex offenses.
Among the five universities that correctly reported stats, SIU had the worst rate of rape and the second-worst rate of forcible fondling. No universities logged any instances of incest or statutory rape.
The Violence Against Women Act also mandated that universities report instances of dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. Three public universities failed to include that data.
Among those that did, SIU ranked last in incidents of stalking (There were 34 cases reported in 2014, meaning nearly 2 of every 1,000 students reported being stalked) and third-to-last in incidents of dating violence, with 20 reported incidents.
Six universities had higher rates of domestic violence. SIU logged 7 cases.
When crime stats first were made public earlier this month, SIU police officials said they wouldn’t be able to evaluate them fully without comparing them with other institutions. Now that those comparisons are available, Beights said making a judgment still is difficult.
“If you compare us to the University of Illinois, you’re looking at a completely different university,” he said.
Beights added that “numbers reflect a number” and the more important information contained in the security report refers to the programs and policies a university campus enacts to keep its students safe.
Asked if SIU is safe, Beights initially replied, “SIU’s number one crime is theft.”
Pressed further, he said, “SIU is a safe, relatively safe institution, with the No. 1 crime being theft.”
Still, he said, there’s always room for improvement.
“We can always do more education,” he said. “Not just crime-wise and how to stay safe, but education of our campus community. It’s building those relationships, so we all feel safe with each other.”