DiNapoli: SUNY Colleges Inconsistently
Reporting Crime Statistics
Two-thirds of State University of New York (SUNY) colleges reported campus crime statistics to the federal Department of Education (DoE) that conflicted, in some cases substantially, with the colleges’ internal records, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. DiNapoli’s auditors also found some of the colleges failed to report serious crimes such as sexual offenses, burglaries and drug offenses.
“Safety has to come first on college campuses,” DiNapoli said. “Parents and students have a right to know, and colleges have a responsibility to report. Accuracy is the key, and some SUNY schools have been inaccurately reporting serious crimes on campus. Not telling the full story on crime won’t make crime disappear.
“What we found is disturbing and must be addressed. Students should have a clear and accurate picture of what’s happening on their campus so they can protect themselves and their property.”
SUNY generally agreed with the audit’s findings and indicated that they had initiated a system-wide training to improve reporting. SUNY’s full response is included in the audit.
Under the federal Clery Act, both colleges and universities are required to release an annual security report (ASR) detailing crime statistics for the three most recent calendar years and disclosing safety policies and procedures. Schools must make the ASR available to students and employees by October 1, as well as report crime statistics to DoE, which publishes the statistics online at www.ope.ed.gov.
DiNapoli’s auditors examined the crime statistics reported by SUNY’s 29 colleges (see attachment for a complete list) from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006 and compared the school data to what was actually reported to DoE. Auditors found inconsistencies in 19 of the 28 schools’ (Empire State College did not prepare an annual report) reports to DoE. Inconsistencies were also found in the annual security reports provided to students and staff. While some discrepancies were relatively minor, others were significant, including those involving sexual offenses, burglaries and drug violations.
At nine of the 19 schools, auditors found that more than 20 crimes/violations differed from what was reported to DoE. Three campuses, Oneonta, Delhi and Cobleskill, had more than 40 crimes/violations that were inconsistent with what was reported to DoE. In addition, only two
campuses, Upstate Medical Center and Cortland, reported all the required security policies and procedures while Maritime, Stony Brook and Albany lacked at least 10 or more of the required policies and procedures.
Auditors also visited four SUNY schools, including University at Buffalo, Delhi, New Paltz and Stony Brook, to review the records kept by officials to track crime statistics. Auditors found the following problems:
- Stony Brook underreported nearly 50 percent of crimes occurring on campus in 2006. In total, 56 of 117 incidents were not reported to DoE, including 33 burglaries which were routinely classified by campus police as larcenies. The Clery Act does not require larcenies to be reported. Other crimes not reported included forcible sexual offenses, possession of drugs and vehicle thefts. Auditors also examined daily police crime logs and found that these logs did not accurately reflect certain crimes identified by campus police. In nine separate incidents, campus police classified on-campus forcible sexual offenses as investigations but did not indicate the specific nature of these investigations. Only four of the nine forcible sexual offenses were actually reported to DoE.
- University at Buffalo did not report a total of 20 incidents to DoE, including 17 drug offenses. It also underreported 75 disciplinary actions, violations of law that did not result in arrests, including 43 drug, 27 liquor and five weapon incidents. Auditors found that the school’s daily crime logs did not accurately list the nature of some crimes due to a computer program problem that misclassified crimes. Officials say they are actively working to fix the problem.
- At Delhi, two of the three incidents that were not reported to DoE were for drug violations. Auditors found 12 crimes, including two sexual assaults and two weapons charges, were not accurately recorded in the school’s crime logs. Delhi also incorrectly reported crime statistics by academic year rather than calendar year as required.
DiNapoli’s auditors concluded that officials at SUNY’s 29 schools did not adequately understand the reporting requirements of the Clery Act. Officials at the four colleges visited told auditors that they had not received any formal training on the reporting requirements in years.
Given the serious deficiencies identified, auditors recommended that the University police or auditor follow up on the findings of the audit. Auditors also recommended that SUNY:
- Adopt practices to ensure colleges are complying with Clery Act and periodically confirm the accuracy of each college’s reporting;
- Reiterate the need for SUNY college police departments to prepare incident reports to document crimes in a clear and comprehensive manner;
- Provide guidance on preparing ASRs and maintaining crime logs; and
- Provide comprehensive training to officials on complying with Clery Act requirements.
Click here for a copy of the audit.
Click here for a list of the schools audited.