Campus Crime:

Difficulties Meeting Federal Reporting Requirements

HEHS-97-52: Published: Mar 11, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 11, 1997.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the progress made under the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act, focusing on: (1) how the Department of Education has implemented and monitored compliance with the act; (2) the kinds of problems, if any, colleges are having in complying with the act; and (3) the requirements of state laws related to public access to police records on reported crimes on campuses.

GAO noted that: (1) although colleges are having difficulty complying with the act, the Department only recently began a systematic effort to monitor compliance; (2) starting in 1991, the Department of Education issued policy guidance to colleges for implementing the law's crime reporting requirements; (3) since that time, the Department has also provided technical assistance to individual colleges upon request; (4) although the Department began issuing implementing guidance to colleges less than 1 year after the law was passed, the Department has only recently begun to develop procedures for its program reviewers and auditors that systematically address monitoring compliance with these requirements; (5) moreover, citing resource limitations, the Department delayed preparing a report on campus crime statistics for which the law prescribed a September 1995 issuance date; (6) the Department issued the report in February 1997; (7) at the campus level, colleges are finding it difficult to consistently interpret and apply some of the law's reporting requirements; (8) for example, GAO's analysis showed considerable variation in colleges' practices for deciding which incidents to include in their reports and what categories to use in classifying certain crimes; (9) areas of difficulty included deciding how to include incidents reported to campus officials other than law enforcement officers, interpreting federal requirements for reporting sexual offenses, and reporting data on hate crimes; (10) federal legislation proposed in the 104th Congress would have augmented available information on campus crime by requiring that campus police records be open to the campus community; (11) similar laws exist in eight states; (12) three laws contain a specific requirement that colleges maintain daily logs; (13) most laws protect the identity of victims and informants from disclosure and ensure that any information that might jeopardize an ongoing investigation also remains confidential; (14) the state laws vary in many details, such as whether identification of juvenile offenders is required and whether noncompliance by the college can result in penalties; and (15) these laws differ from the 1990 act in requiring year-round access to campus police reports rather than annual summary statistics.

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