UNT released the 2019-2020 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report on Monday, which details crime and safety statistics from 2016 to 2018, in accordance with a national law that requires universities to publish information on criminal activity reported to them.
UNT’s Clery Act statistics for 2018 show nearly consistent rates of sexual assault cases, thefts and assaults as in the prior two years, but reductions in liquor law and drug violations. Reports of dating violence and stalking rose slightly.
Clery statistics include both incidents reported to police and other sources at UNT, like the Dean of Students office. Not all crimes outlined in the report were confirmed by police, though unconfirmed cases are labeled in the report as “unfounded crimes” and make up only a small portion of reports.
“The Clery Act requires institutions to publish an annual security report, provide three years worth of crime data so that families or prospective students can look at it, compare it to other institutions and make informed decisions about safety,” Reynolds said.UNT Police Chief Ed Reynolds and Dean of Students Moe McGuinness discussed the Clery Act report Tuesday morning in a press conference with student media.
Clery statistics show the number of crimes and fires reported on campus grounds, on public land near campus, like streets and off-campus properties maintained by the university.
Congress passed the Clery act in 1990. The law is named after Jeanne Clery, a Pennsylvania student who was raped and murdered in her residence hall in 1986. Clery’s family crusaded for enhanced reporting of criminal activities following her death.
Both McGuinness and Reynolds said seeing higher numbers in Clery reports can sometimes be more helpful than harmful.
“I’m a parent, so this is important to me,” Reynolds said. “If you look at an institution that’s our size, so 39,000 students, and you see things like sex offense cases and you see zeroes in the categories, me as a parent… that would cause a concern. We know that is the most underreported crime and we know that it occurs on our college campus.”
UNT, like some other universities, operates a Clery committee to oversee the accuracy of crime reports. McGuinness said UNT’s Clery committee convenes every two weeks.
“Before I was educated like I am now on Clery, I used to go ‘Yes. No sexual assaults,’ when you would see the zeroes, because we used to see that,” McGuinness said. “Since we’ve started the [Clery] committee and doing a lot of education, as well as the addition of the Violence Against Women Act to Clery, you’re seeing more people report.”
New Texas legislation may increase reporting numbers at universities across the state. Texas Senate Bill 212, which went into effect on Sept. 1, made withholding reports of sexual misconduct a fireable offense for university employees, eventually becoming a criminal offense after Jan. 1, 2020.
That bill affects Title IX reports, which McGuinness said differ from Clery reports in scope. Clery crime statistics are isolated by geography, only showing events within UNT’s properties. Title IX reports encompass events affecting UNT students or staff on and off campus.
Other UNT staff hold a vital role in Clery reporting, McGuinness said. Clery documents show a record of all UNT staff meetings about criminal activity within the past year, including the staff members involved and material covered in each meeting.
Mechanical engineering senior Jadon Morris works with Clery reporting as a resident assistant at Honors Hall. Morris and other RAs repeatedly attend training sessions about incident reporting, some led by UNT Police.
Morris said he feels prepared to report incidents after Clery training, and praised the system for its impact on students, even if they do not read the report.
“Clery reporting is actually pretty cool,” Morris said. “A lot of my friends from high school would look at different schools and say ‘Oh no, that school’s got a super high crime rate,’ and the only reason we have all that information is because of Clery, which I didn’t know at the time. I think it’s a pretty good system to have.”
But the system is not foolproof. Texas State University drew controversy for their criminal reporting practices after Clery Act statistics revealed the university severely underreported the number of sexual assault cases on campus, the Texas Tribune reported this week.
Incorrect records at Texas State said only eight rapes occurred at the school from 2016 to 2017, but updated Clery statistics increased that figure to 38.
Reynolds said he has seen similar instances of misreporting, but affirmed that UNT commits itself to accurate reporting, brought partly by oversight from the Clery team.
“Our statistics are just as accurate as the reports we receive,” Reynolds said. “I know some of the cases at other universities, but we don’t do business that way at the University of North Texas.”
Featured Image: UNT Police Chief Ed Reynolds and Dean of Students Moe McGuinness discussed the 2019-2020 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report at the UNT Sullivant Public Safety Center on Oct. 1, 2019. Image by Quincy Palmer