Northeastern Illinois University's student-run newspaper

The Independent

Crime reports

Liz Varmecky, Writer

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The 2017 Annual Safety and Security Information Report is the first such report that includes statistics covering the first year since NEIU became a residential campus.

Five robberies were reported at non-campus properties NEIU owns on West Bryn Mawr Avenue. Drug and alcohol abuse and Violence Against Women Act reporting may have increased, but crime at NEIU remains comparatively low for institutions in Chicago.

According to NEIU’s safety report, released Oct. 4, crime reports have increased due to the acquisition of commercial properties for future development and changes the U.S. Department of Education made to the crime reporting requirements in 2016.

Director of Public Relations Mike Hines said the university’s administration does “not expect the addition of a residential component to affect Northeastern’s reputation as the ‘safest campus in the state.’”

The 2017 safety report comes out during a time of heightened safety concerns on campus, after reports of an armed intruder in the Nest on Sept. 20 and written death threats found on campus this semester, according to an email sent to students by the university.

The 2016 increase in crime may have been influenced by several factors, and the authors of NEIU’s report added caveats for the first time to justify the upturns.

All 28 crime reports that occurred on NEIU property in 2016 fall into one of three categories: robberies, drug, and alcohol violations and Violence Against Women Act-mandated reporting.

Robberies

The report, which is divided into sections both by category and campus, indicates five robberies took place on non-campus properties in the main campus section in 2016. Hines said the non-campus properties include properties on the north and south side of West Bryn Mawr Avenue, which were mostly acquired in December 2015 and January 2016. (See map.)

The safety report’s robbery statistic is followed by this caveat: “The increase in the robbery is the result of acquiring commercial properties by the University for future development.”

The Board of Trustees proposed the parcels of land as a potential location for an anticipated additional residence hall.

When asked to confirm the university’s plans for the newly acquired properties, Hines said the board “is expected to discuss and possibly make a decision on Phase II of the residence halls” at their Nov. 16 meeting.

Drug and Alcohol Violations

There were fewer reports of these violations in 2014 and 2015, prior to the opening of the residence hall. According to the safety report, liquor law violations were reported on NEIU’s main campus 12 times in 2016, and drug law violations and referrals for arrest were reported three times. The liquor and drug portion of the safety report is followed by this caveat: “Increase in liquor law violations as a result of newly opened on-campus residence hall in 2016.”

Violence Against Women Act

Offenses compiled under the Violence Against Women Act represent the only violent crimes reported other than robbery, as defined in the 2017 safety report.

These offenses include domestic violence, stalking, dating violence and hate crimes. The report shows that domestic violence and dating violence were reported once last year, and there were three reports of stalking.

There were no reports of these offenses in 2015 at NEIU.

Director of the Angelina Pedroso Center Maria Genao-Homs said the increased reports do not necessarily indicate increased occurrences of violence.  “Residence halls aren’t the cause for the violence,” she said.

She said there are more VAWA reports on residential campuses because students are “more connected to the university.”

Employees who are notified of a Title IX offense (sexual harassment and sexual violence) are required to report and refer students to Title IX Coordinator Leah Heinecke-Krumhus, except for two confidential outlets: Confidential Adviser Rae Joyce Baguilat and counseling services.

Heinecke-Krumhus said the standard for Title IX abuse is currently the “preponderance of the evidence,” which is easier to meet than criminal burdens of proof.  She explained how Title IX reports can offer students remedies within the university system that the criminal court system cannot, like expulsion or suspension of the perpetrator. Both Heinecke-Krumhus and Genao-Homs say the VAWA offenses are underreported in general.

Only 12.5 percent of rapes on undergraduate campuses were reported to officials, according to a 2016 report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Because of chronic underreporting, seeing VAWA numbers increase in future safety reports could mean victims feel more empowered to report.  Heinecke-Krumhus said the reports will increase as the Title IX coordinator’s visibility increases on campus.

How does NEIU stack up?

Despite the increase in crime at NEIU, the crime report totals are some of the lowest in the city compared to a variety of Chicago campuses: Depaul University, Loyola University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, North Park University and Chicago State University. These schools are different in size, measured by enrollment and land area.  They are located in different areas of Chicago and are both public and private.

Chicago State University, which had the fewest crime reports in 2016, is not a residential campus.

However, NEIU had the most robberies total compared to the other universities.  North Park, the closest university to NEIU’s main campus, Depaul and UIC all had a single report each.  Chicago State University had 2 reported robberies last year and NEIU had five robberies.

According to its 2017 Campus Safety and Security Report and Fire Safety Report, North Park University, 3225 W. Foster Ave., saw an increase of rape reports in 2016.  There were eight reports at their main campus in 2016, up from one in 2015.

The Clery Act Reporting Changes

The Clery Act was passed in 1990 and mandates a public, proactive, annual disclosure of crime reports on university and college campuses, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Education.

Because of changes made to the reporting requirements in 2016, additional properties must be included in the 2016 reports, compared to the 2015 statistics. The 2016 changes also provide updated guidance and definitions of sexual assault and similar crimes.

Alcohol and drug violations and VAWA reporting no longer fall under a hierarchy rule, which would have allowed these offenses to go unreported in the drug, alcohol and VAWA categories if a more serious crime were reported while that offense was taking place.

The new guidance does not require reporting marijuana use and possession in areas like Chicago that have decriminalized possession of small quantities of the substance.

The purpose of the Clery Act is to empower students and prospective students by providing them with data about crime in and around university campuses.

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