The Struggle to Accurately Report Incidents Continues

Don’t rely only on crime data to determine the success of your campus safety and security program.

It seems like some campuses are no closer to having reliable safety and security incident data than before. That’s the conclusion of an article I just read on, which provided several examples where the data collected on specific K-12 campuses was obviously inaccurate. According to the article, infractions were reported that never actually occurred.

The most glaring example was Caro High School. The campus of about 600 students recorded 4,815 cases of alcohol possession in the 2011-2012 years. That translates to each student being busted for carrying booze on average eight times that year. Another high school in the state recorded 12 suicide attempts in 2011-2012 when none actually occurred.

And higher ed campuses are not immune to over-reporting crime either. A few years back UC Davis discovered a staff member had inflated its incident numbers.

Although Campus Safety magazine has paid quite a bit of attention to the under reporting of incidents, both on K-12 and college campuses, inflated data is just as harmful. It damages the overall credibility of the crime prevention measures and programs being implemented.

What MLive’s article demonstrates is the difficulty any campus – or city, county, state or country for that matter – has when trying to accurately record crime.

That’s why relying only on statistics when determining if a campus is safe can be very misleading. Other factors must be considered, such as:

  • Does the school or college have a culture of safety?
  • Does the campus police chief or security director report to someone high up on the campus food chain?
  • Does the institution conduct risk and threat analysis regularly?
  • Does the campus include safety and security in its strategic plan?
  • Does the campus include safety and security in the planning phases of new construction and renovation projects?
  • Does the institution have an emergency plan that is up-to-date?
  • Are all school police, security personnel, teachers, administrators and staff trained regularly in safety and security?
  • Does the campus conduct background checks of its employees?
  • Does the campus have good working relationships with outside first responders (law enforcement, fire, EMS, etc.)?
  • Does the campus make good faith efforts to report and address crime?
  • Does the school police or security department have enough financial resources, as well as equipment (weapons for sworn and trained police, video surveillance, access control, visitor management systems, two-way radios, emergency notification systems, etc.)?

Here are some articles Campus Safety has run in the past that will help school and university protection professionals—as well as students, faculty, staff and parents—determine if their institution is truly safe:

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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