Campus crime: the numbers game
By Kelly Marcella
While it is important to feel secure and safe on campus, a lack of standardization for university crime statistics can be misleading for prospective students.
Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities in the United States are required to make crime statistics readily available to students and parents alike. Moreover, the statistics are standardized across the country, offering more comprehensive information.
In Canada, however, there is no legislation forcing universities to publicize information about crime statistics, said Louise Fish, president of the Ontario Association of College and University Security Administrators.
"I don't think legislation is important because the information can be demanded and provided if needed," Fish said, noting most Ontario universities make the information available anyway.
According to Wendy McGowan, spokesperson for the University Police Department, crime statistics for Western are available online. "I think most universities want to be progressive and releasing this information is very important," she said.
Nicole Nelson, VP-campus issues for the University Students' Council, noted self-reported statistics, such as those at Western, can be misleading.
Without a standardized system, it is difficult to use the statistics provided to paint accurate pictures of what is actually happening on campus, she said.
"I think it's important that if [legislation] were to happen, it would have to be universal," Nelson said.
"It think it's important that it be available to educate people," said Scott Doner, director of public safety at Valdosta State University in Georgia, U.S.A. and president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.
Doner noted the implementation of standardized crime statistics was difficult, but said they have ironed out about 90 per cent of the problems in the 10 years since the act was passed.
"I think it's important that parents and students have the information, but crime happens everywhere," Fish said. "The information that is most important is what the university is doing to make students safe."
Crime statistics for Western are available at www.uwo.ca/police.