Last year, there were 20 total sexual assault reports disclosed by UT, the same number as the year before, according to the most recent Annual Security and Fire Safety report.
The report presents crime data from various campus security authorities, such as resident assistant and coaches, as well as from the UT Police Department for the past three years. According to the report, offenses involving interpersonal violence, such as rape and stalking, also maintained their rates.
UTPD Chief David Carter said the high number of sexual assaults could mean more people are being encouraged to report because of Title IX and Student Emergency Services.
“When you look at sexual assaults that are reported … more are being reported to the University than to the police,” Carter said.
UTPD enhanced its sexual assault criminal investigative process by giving trauma-informed training to its Sexual Assault Support Specialists. In September, UTPD rolled out a new sexual assault reporting guide for students. More than 200 guides have been distributed throughout campus dormitories.
“Our message is that it’s important for students to report their assault to somebody, whether it be to UTPD or the University,” Carter said. “We think our community is becoming more engaged and more willing to report those kind of offenses. Whether or not they’re comfortable coming to the police, that’s something that we still have to work on.”
According to the report, offenses in 2017 such as domestic violence, dating violence and burglary decreased from 2016. Drug abuse violations, motor vehicle thefts and weapons arrests increased.
The federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Statistics Act provides transparency around campus crime policy and statistics by requiring all universities who receive federal financial aid to disclose information about crime. The Clery Act categorizes crime statistics into 10 categories and also takes into consideration unfounded reports and hate crimes.
Data for an institution’s annual security report reflects reports of crimes that occurred within an institution’s Clery geography that were reported to an institution’s campus security authorities or local law enforcement.
Categories of geography include on-campus property, non-campus property, student housing, separate campuses such as UT’s Marine Science Institute, and public property. Non-campus buildings and property are defined as any location owned, leased or affiliated with the University or a registered student organization, such as a sorority house.
Numbers for non-campus buildings and property are derived from the Austin Police Department and additional institutions such as University Health Services, Student Emergency Services or Counseling and Mental Health Center.
“It is important for campuses to be transparent about crimes that take place within the institution’s Clery geography … as these are locations that students and other community members might frequent or interact with,” said Laura Egan, senior director of programs for the Clery Center. “It is helpful for them to understand what crimes, if any, have been reported in those locations so they can make decisions about whether or not they want to continue to access those spaces or travel through those areas.”
James Lentz, president of the UT Campus Bike Alliance, said although he thought the University has taken initiative to improve safety and emergency communications, the report could have been organized differently.
“I’m a little disappointed that ‘motor vehicle theft’ has its own category while bike thefts, which I imagine are more prevalent on campus, are presumably lumped into another category,” civil engineering senior Lentz said. “It would be nice to be able to track those separately and compare to other universities.”