COLUMN: Aware of campus crime important

Did you know that there are places at Ball State that we use every day that are not defined by the university as on-campus?

There are events that can happen that can skew how safe you feel on campus, where you go and how you perceive the police department. I was given some information the other day about a procedure that is kind of shady. There is an inconsistency among universities when it comes to reporting statistics.

Ball State is required by law to follow the Student Right to Know and Campus Security Act of 1990, which requires all institutions that give Federal Student Aid to disclose campus security policies and crime statistics. This law allows students to know the number of sex offenses, thefts, arsons, and assaults - to name a few - that happen on and around their campuses. The law says that it is a right and important for your safety as a student to be aware of the numbers of crimes that happen. But the law is flawed and does not provide a system to give you the accurate information that you rightly are entitled.

Students should be aware and knowledgeable of how these numbers are defined. The government relies on individual universities to decide what part of their property is considered on-campus. Different universities define it differently. At Ball State on-campus is defined as the grounds owned, operated or maintained by the university. So what does that mean? If someone steals the hubcaps from your car at the stadium parking lot, the report you have filed would score one in the on-campus column. If your girlfriend is pulled over on McKinley Avenue, even though it runs through the heart of campus, she has committed an off-campus offense. All universities are required to do the same, but a "McKinley Avenue" at another school may be considered on-campus. It is up to the individual school to decide.

Because most people are honest, Ball State's statistics are fairly accurate. However, the law can cause the reported information to be inaccurate. Universities are required to record all complaints, whether true or not, in their annual statistics. Though it is rare, there is a possibility that incidents that are reported are proved to be unfounded by a jury are recorded as a campus crime. If this happens, it can lead to numbers that may not be truthful. I talked with an individual in the police department. I was assured that it is hard to report a false accusation and I agree that BSU's numbers as a good estimate of the campus.

Events that occur off-campus are also misleading to our campus crime statistics. Required by the act, any incident that a Ball State police officer deals with must be recorded in the statistics. So, a police officer that responds to a call in downtown Muncie or to assist with a robbery at a bank, those crimes must be recorded in Ball State's statistics as if they happened on or near campus.

I think there needs to be consistency with the law to set the parameters so that all universities are consistent and held to the same federal standards. This will prevent a university from potentially taking advantage of the loopholes for public relation reasons and/or recruitment possibilities.

For students, I feel Ball State's information is accurate and gives a solid view of Ball State's campus. Be leery of comparing universities because many times it is like comparing apples and oranges. I think it is more important for students not to know the exact number, but to know what types of crimes are committed. Please check out the campus public safety Web site at www.bsu.edu/publicsafety to get an idea of Ball State's statistics and how to protect yourself. Have a good break.

Write to Tommy attbrector@bsu.edu


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