Rowan University’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report shows increases in several crimes on Glassboro’s main campus, although public safety looks at the data with optimism.
Reports of rape saw one of the most significant spikes. In 2016, 11 cases of rape were reported to Public Safety – a notable increase from the seven cases that were recorded each year during 2014 and 2015.
Rowan’s Department of Public Safety believes this increase is largely due to the emphasis the university put on sexual violence prevention and education. The department hypothesizes that victims feel more comfortable reporting instances of rape to police.
“Between Public Safety, Title IX, The Wellness Center and other programs on campus that deal with sexual assault, the university has done a great job of educating students,” said Reed Layton, senior director of Public Safety. “People feel more comfortable with coming forward and reporting these incidents, and with that, the reports of rape go higher.”
Rape is a historically under-reported crime in the United States. According to data gathered by the U.S. Department of Justice between 1995 and 2013, “rape and sexual assault victimizations were more likely to go unreported than other types of violent crime.” The report also found that victimization involving female students went unreported in 80 percent of cases.
On campus, The Wellness Center has been at the forefront of addressing the issue of sexual assault. Events such as Take Back the Night and the Student Title IX Summit, which will be held on Friday, Oct. 6, have been pivotal in kickstarting conversations and allowing victims to share their experiences.
“The interesting thing that comes from doing a lot of prevention and awareness is that more people feel comfortable coming forward and reporting it,” said Allie Pearce, assistant director of Healthy Campus Initiatives. “We want people to get help and we want people to be safe. That’s always our number one goal.”
According to Layton, the incidents of rape almost always occur in a party setting where alcohol is involved.
Last year, Rowan University Public Safety saw another substantial increase in alcohol related offenses. The report cited 652 liquor law referrals, which was a major increase from 2014 (411) and 2015 (459). The rise of Rowan’s alcohol violations is likely connected to the university’s steady increase in student population, which has grown to approximately 18,000. Layton also attributes a portion of the upsurge to the department’s proactive policing of alcohol on campus.
“We’ve been cracking down on alcohol, which is one of the reasons why the number of violations continues to rise each year,” Layton said. “The more proactive we are and the more students there are, the more that number is going to increase.”
Burglaries also saw a rise across campus last year. After experiencing a slight decrease between 2014 (19) and 2015 (11), the number of burglaries shot up to 44.
However, Layton does not believe that this statistic is any indication of a bigger issue. Instead, the department claims that the data was inflated by one large string of burglaries.
“People look at that number and go ‘Whoa, what happened?’” Layton said. “The answer is that we had a bad rash of burglaries for about a month to a month and a half. We ended up catching the guys who did it, but that’s why the burglary numbers are so high.”
Upon analyzing the full report, public safety was pleased with the infrequency of violent crimes on campus. Despite the steady increase in population, the statistics for violent crimes haven’t seen a notable increase. Last year, Rowan experienced just one case of robbery, while aggravated assaults remained at a similarly low rate for the past three years.
“Even though the population is growing tremendously, the number of serious crimes have really stabilized, which is a great thing,” Layton said. “That really shows our involvement in the community and our ability to be proactive.”
All data collected for the Clery Report must be released no later than Oct. 1 each year, in accordance with federal law.
For questions/comments about this story, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @thewhitonline.