October 29, 2008
Number of college crimes remains consistent
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland police officer Eric Collins patrols Monday on campus.
The number of reported crimes at SUNY Cortland has remained consistent in recent years, according to the assistant chief of the University Police, who said his agency has made efforts to maintain safety.
Since 1990, the Cleary Act requires all colleges to submit annual reports on campus safety by Oct. 1 each calendar year.
A recent audit by the state Comptroller’s Office showed about 75 percent of SUNY schools had discrepancies with police records and what was released to the public. SUNY Cortland was not listed among them.
Sipping coffee at the campus library Monday, Jeralee O’Hara, a sophomore at Cortland said she has checked the campus crime reports online.
“The number of reported burglaries surprised me, but I still feel pretty safe here,” O’Hara, of Camden, said.
University Police reported 30 on-campus burglaries in 2007, 24 of which were in residence halls. Comparatively, 28 were reported in 2005.
A copy of 2008 police reports as of September furnished by University Police show 17 on-campus burglaries reported.
This year, however, represents a significant increase since 2006, which was a 30-year low for overall campus crime, said Mark DePaull, the assistant chief of SUNY Cortland University Police.
A total of 338 crimes were reported in 2006, the lowest on-campus crime rate since 873 incidents reported in 1981. The 2006 figure is slightly lower than the 464 total number of crimes reported in 2005.
DePaull could not account for the 2006 decrease, saying it might have just been a “lucky year.”
“If everyone locked their doors, about 80 percent of larcenies would go away, DePaull said. It’s not as frequent to have an off-campus student come on campus to steal something.
DePaull said University Police have taken steps in recent years to monitor the campus more effectively.
Some students have noticed a bigger police presence, but others think police could do more.
O’Hara said she does not see an active police presence on campus beyond car patrols.
“I don’t see them walking around as much, but they always send e-mails if something does happen,” O’Hara said.
With a total of 19 officers, including himself and Police Chief Stephen Dangler, DePaull said fully patrolling the campus on foot would not be possible because of manpower.
“They (officers) are out there, you just might not see them all the time,” he said.
One tactic University Police have employed in recent years is use of a network of more than 80 digital cameras, which monitor parking lots, elevators and building exteriors across the campus.
DePaull said monitoring of parking lots has drastically cut down on thefts from parked vehicles, which he said used to occur nearly every weekend.
He added that use of this camera system has resulted in at least a dozen arrests for various thefts in recent years.
As of September, 46 Alcohol Beverage Control Law violation arrests were reported for 2008. This has remained consistent since 2007, when 45 arrests were made on campus.
Almost nearly equivalent with alcohol violations on campus are drug charges. According to the University Police Web site, drug law violations have almost consistently risen since 2005, when 24 occurred and 33 were reported in 2007.
DePaull said drug arrests on campus in recent years are more for prescription drugs than marijuana.
“Marijuana is difficult to mask, you’re bound to get caught because of the smell,” he said.
DePaull said various prescription narcotics or painkillers have been used by students to get high by mixing with alcohol in recent years.
He added incidents like these have yielded about three arrests per academic year.
“With pharmaceutical misuse, it’s a difficult area for us to look at because they’re legally purchased,” DePaull said.
Other issues have proven difficult to track for police. DePaull said sexual assault cases can pose a challenge to investigate because not all victims report the crime.
Forcible sex offense cases have declined somewhat since 2005, when seven were reported, according to the University Police Web site. Only two were reported in 2007, with none in 2006.
DePaull said not all sexual assault-type incidents end up with charges being filed, and in most cases the victim is an acquaintance of the suspect. He added the last on-campus sexual assault involving a stranger was in 1992.
O’Hara said she has never heard of many cases during her time at SUNY Cortland, but said she knows it still is an issue.
“I’m positive it happens way more than is reported,” O’Hara said. “I just don’t think people are comfortable reporting it.”
The latest reported rape on campus occurred Sept. 28, with former student Jason Nunez, 21, accused of sexually assaulting a female student in her dorm room.
The case was adjourned in City Court and Nunez is scheduled to reappear Nov. 5.
Students charged with crimes are divided between City Court appearances and referrals to the campus Judicial Affairs Office.
DePaull said a student convicted for an offense could face community service, or for serious crimes, suspension or a term of disciplinary probation on campus.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe