Crime Alert

A stack of crime alerts in the Ohio University Police Department’s office.

In the six weeks since Ohio University's fall semester classes began, nine sexual assaults on the university's Athens campus have been reported to the OU Police Department.

Eight of those cases are still open. Four of those cases involve women reporting that they had been raped on OU's campus, at least three of whom alleging they knew the person who raped them.

The number of sexual assaults reported to the OUPD this semester far surpasses the four sex assaults (all alleged rapes) reported to the OUPD in the entire fall semester 2014.

OU Police Lt. Tim Ryan said last Thursday that sexual assaults are statistically some of the most underreported crimes. According to recent federal Bureau of Criminal Justice data, 80 percent of college students victimized by sexual assault or rape are not likely to report their assault to police.

Ryan said he believes the increased reports of sexual assault so far this semester reflect greater reporting rather than any increase in actual crime, because numbers of students reporting sexual misconduct in an annual campus drug and alcohol survey have stayed “consistent” while the OUPD’s report numbers have increased.

“We do think that there is an increase in reporting happening,” Ryan said. “We (OU) are mirroring a more national trend in an increase in reporting.”

The two most-recent cases of sexual assault reported to the OUPD this semester are both classified as rapes, according to the incident reports.

The first, reported on Sat., Sept. 26, allegedly occurred in Bromley Hall after midnight on Saturday, and involved a female reporting being engaged in “unwanted sexual conduct” by a male acquaintance.

The second, reported on Fri., Sept. 25, allegedly occurred in Martzolff House last Thursday evening, and involved a female reporting the same as above. The most-recent Sept. 26 case reports that alcohol was involved in the case, and the Sept. 25 report lists two other possible crimes – “possession of controlled substances” and “underage persons offenses concerning alcohol.”

Of the nine sexual assaults reported to the OUPD so far this semester, only one case is listed as closed – a case involving a former OU basketball player being arrested and charged with gross sexual imposition in which the charges were dropped upon request from the victim.

Since the beginning of the last fiscal year for the university (starting July 1, 2014, ending June 30, 2015), the OU Police have received reports of 18 total sex offenses, including reports of nine rapes, two sexual impositions, one gross sexual imposition and one pandering obscenity to a minor (the other reported crimes – two voyeurism and three public indecency – also fall under the umbrella of “sex offenses” under Ohio Revised Code). It is unclear if any of those cases are still under investigation, or if charges ever resulted from any of those cases.

Of the reported rapes in the last fiscal year, four allegedly occurred last spring semester, although one case is listed as closed due to an “unfounded complaint” (the alleged victim denied she was sexually assaulted in any way). Four rapes were reported to the OU Police last fall semester.

No sexual assaults on OU's campus reported to the OUPD have been sent out as a “crime alert” in an email to students and staff, or posted on the Police Department’s “crime alerts” website, since January 15, 2015, when a woman reported a sexual imposition. Since that crime alert, basically the only ways that students or staff (parents of students are not sent crime alerts) could hear about such reports were through media coverage, receiving a public crime log (one must request to be put on that list), or showing up at the OUPD's office and requesting reports of any sexual assaults within the last 30 days. Anybody may also request any public records (such as police reports) from the OUPD, although some wait period is typically associated with such a request.

The Athens NEWS until last week was not receiving emailed copies of the OUPD’s daily crime log, which campus police departments are required to keep available for inspection during normal business hours by the Clery Act, a federal law that regulates campus security and campus crime statistic policies. The OUPD emails that log to local media "as a courtesy and is an effort on our part to be good partners with the media, not a fulfillment of obligations under Clery," Ryan said Thursday.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story wrote that campus police are required to send out the daily crime log to the media. They are not. The Clery Act only mandates that campus security maintain a daily crime log, and keep it available to the public for inspection within the agency's public office.

OU POLICE Lieutenant Ryan explained last Thursday that most crimes – including sexual assaults – reported to the OUPD are not sent out as “crime alerts” to the greater student body. Local student activists have recently raised concerns about the lack of crime alerts being sent out; students at Hocking College especially have questioned administrators recently about why no alert was sent out to the campus community about a highly publicized alleged rape in the dorms there in early September.

Ryan said that the Clery Act is “wonderfully vague” in what reports of crime require a “timely warning” (the Clery Act’s definition of a “crime alert”) to be sent out to the campus community. Any decision to do so must be based on the individual, unique facts of the case, Ryan said. These are different for every case, and must be determined to represent an “ongoing threat” to the community, he explained.

Specifically, Ryan said he could not discuss why some reports of crime – two rapes, one assault and one robbery – were sent out as crime alerts last fall semester vs. none being sent out so far for any of the nine sexual assault reports this semester.

OU Police Chief Andrew Powers said in an email Tuesday that he feels that “every incident that has warranted a timely warning has been emailed campus-wide and posted to our crime-alerts web page.”

The Clery Act states some factors for why or why not campus police departments should issue “timely warnings” after reports of crime:

• The nature of a crime. Is it a part of a larger pattern of criminal behavior?

• Is there any continuing danger to the campus community? Here is the example cited in the Act: “For example, if a rape is reported on campus and the alleged perpetrator has not been caught, the risk is there. If the alleged perpetrator was apprehended, there is no continuing risk.”

• The possible risk of compromising law-enforcement efforts. “This factor does not mean that in the event of a serious or continuing threat to your students or employees you should decide not to issue a timely warning.”

Timely warnings are different from emergency warnings; in the case of an emergency warning, which is necessitated by an actively dangerous situation, such as a shooter on a college’s campus, police/the university are required to send out emergency notifications through text message and various public channels.

OU, like most universities, has its own sexual misconduct reporting process, and students may be disciplined, suspended or expelled for misconduct through that process.

In the last fiscal year, according to a recent OU Board of Trustees agenda, university faculty and staff sent six complaints of sexual harassment to the OU administration. As far as students alleging sexual misconduct goes, there were 14 reports of sexual harassment by hostile environment, two reported non-consensual sex, and five reported non-consensual sexual intercourse.

MIAMI UNIVERSITY’S police department has fielded 19 reports of sex offenses in the last fiscal year, according to a spokesperson, which is one more than was reported to OU during that time period.

According to OU’s most-recent Clery Act with data from 2013 (a new report with 2014 numbers should be made available sometime this week or early next week), OU Athens saw nine total sex offenses in 2013, 14 in 2012, and 11 in 2011. According to Miami’s most-recent Clery Act data, that university’s police department fielded 14 sex-offense reports in 2014, 18 in 2013, and 17 in 2012.

According to data from a public database on the Columbus Dispatch’s website, OU’s main campus has seen 232 reports of sexual assault between 2001 and 2012.

OU Police Chief Powers sent out an email to students and staff Wednesday (Sept. 30) about the nine sexual assaults reported to the OUPD so far this semester. He gave further detail on the cases so far:

"In every case, the suspect was known to the victim and the encounter began as consensual," he wrote. "All but one of the incidents took place in a private residence. Two of the incidents occurred during meet ups arranged through Tinder, and most of the offenses involved alcohol consumption. Most importantly, in all of the cases, the victim reported that the assailant did not have consent to engage in sex, continued after consent was withdrawn, or engaged in conduct beyond her consent."

Powers listed some reasons why "crime alerts" have not been sent out to the community yet about the alleged sexual assaults in the email. Among them, he said that "it's important to keep in mind that emailing the details of a very personal crime to the entire campus... can have a very profound impact on the victim, especially when s/he knows the suspect."

More coverage of Powers' response and further details about the broader campus culture at OU when it comes to sexual assault can be found in our next Monday edition.

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