Ohio State Students are familiar with the Public Safety Notices issued via e-mail by the Ohio State University Police Department when criminal activities take place on or around campus areas. But with only a handful of public safety notices sent out to students since January 2012, many students are asking, “Where did all the safety notices go?”
At first glance, students might assume that the lack of public safety notices in the past fifteen months indicates a decrease in crime around the campus area. The crime statistics show the opposite. Since January 27th, 2013, 26 assaults along with 9 robberies have been committed within the Columbus Police Division’s 4th precinct, a region encompassing OSU’s campus, also stretching north to Maynard Avenue, east to North 4th Street, and south to King Avenue.
With 35 crimes occurring in the last two months and OSU Police issuing only one public safety notice in that same span of time, the math does not seem to add up.
So what is responsible for the disparity between crimes committed and crime alerts sent out to OSU students? The Ohio State Police Department’s policy states that public safety notices are only sent out when “a report is received of a violent crime against a person or a particularly threatening crime against property that represents an ongoing danger to the safety of students, faculty and staff.”
The Clery Act, a federal law requiring universities to disclose crime information about crime on and around their campuses, provides some more explanation for the stark difference between crime committed and safety notices released. Signed into law in 1990, the Clery Act establishes a set of guidelines colleges must follow with regards to how they report crime and which crimes are reported, crimes that include robbery and aggravated assault. Under the Clery Act, the OSU Police Department is not required to report any crimes east of High Street in the campus area, territory under the jurisdiction of the Columbus Police Division.
This legal obligation shifted in April 2012 with the Mutual Aid agreement between the OSU Police Department and Columbus Police Division, granting OSU PD the ability to take action when witnessing crimes committed in off-campus residential areas east of High Street.
The agreement also established a Joint Patrol program, funded by the Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government, which pairs a police officer from the city police and University police departments in a patrol car during the high crime hours of 6pm to 2am. Deputy Chief of the OSU Police Department Richard Morman says the purpose of Joint Patrol is “to make OSU PD more aware of the crimes committed around Ohio State.” “These patrols are not dispatched on calls, but they always respond to crimes occurring with Ohio State students,” Morman said.
Despite increased cooperation between Ohio State University Police and Columbus Police, Morman stressed that “Often times we (OSU Police) don’t know about crimes. We try to maintain dialogue with Columbus PD, but if something happens on a Friday night, sometimes we don’t find out until Monday.”
Columbus Police crime statistics show of the 26 assaults that occurred in the last two months, 5 of the cases included victims that are Ohio State students. Of the 5 cases of assault upon OSU students, 3 of these assaults took place on High Street, yet the OSU Police Department’s Daily Crime Log shows zero entries made for any of these incidents. While the Clery Act maintains Universities only have to report statistics of aggravated assaults, this lack of data on the Daily Crime Log seems to refute the claim made by Deputy Chief Morman that OSU Police responds to crimes committed on High Street and crimes involving Ohio State students.
The relative lack of Public Safety Notices distributed by OSU Police in 2013 indicates that the department does not believe any of these assaults presented an on-going threat to student safety, but still begs the question of why OSU Police did not get involved in any assaults committed against students or on High Street.
The OSU Police have a history of releasing notices to students when a robbery occurs on or off campus, releasing a notice in November 2011 for a robbery occurring around Summit Street and East 18th Avenue, despite the location of this robbery being outside of the required crime alert reporting area.
With four of the nine robberies that occurred in the last two months involving victims who are students at Ohio State, Public Safety Notices from the OSU PD are nowhere to be found. Of these four robberies involving OSU students three occurred in off-campus residential areas and the other on High Street, yet again the OSU PD Daily Crime Log shows no evidence of any of the robberies mentioned, nor were crime alerts sent out
While the Columbus PD maintains a database of crimes in the city, including the campus-area 4th Precinct, students may not know this resource exists. “We point students to the Franklin County Sherriff’s Office database online to locate crimes and sex offenders in their areas,” Morman said.
It seems the OSU Police Department chooses to provide Ohio State students with the minimum amount of information required of them by the Clery Act, leaving many students unaware of the most dangerous areas or times to be walking on and off campus. The absence of vital data from the OSU PD Crime Log also means students who want to stay conscious of crimes occurring around them are not able to access all of the information they are looking for, information that University police are supposed to provide to the public every day.