It’s that time of the year again — on Oct. 1, USF’s Department of Safety released their annual Clery Report, which provides information on safety and security at each USF campus, as well as crime statistics on all USF locations.
“The whole purpose of it is to make universities more aware,” said Public Safety Lt. Kevin Dillon. “If they’re aware because there are rules that they can get fined for, if they’re aware because of the liability that they have and they can get sued, therefore they make their campuses safer and spend more money on security and those kinds of things.”
For the Hilltop campus, the 2019-20 Clery Report provides statistics for 21 types of crime over the last four years. Out of these, instances of rape, dating violence, burglary, and referrals of liquor law violations have all increased. The number of reported rapes increased from two in 2016 to nine in 2018, and the number of instances of reported dating violence increased from two to five. Reported burglaries increased from four to five (with a drop to three in 2017). Referrals of liquor law violations dropped significantly from 247 in 2016 to 84 in 2017, but increased to 138 in 2018.
However, the numbers provided by the Clery Report do not always provide a complete picture. Title IX Coordinator Jess Varga explained that the report only includes crimes that occur within the boundaries of campus, as opposed to all crimes that happen to students and staff. According to Lt. Dillon, the Clery Report is conducted in such a way that some crimes supersede others, sometimes causing an inaccurate reflection of crimes that are committed on campus.
“[Of] the reports that we get within the scope of the general idea of the office, we’re looking at an average of 75-80 reports that come in throughout the academic year,” Varga said when explaining what is and is not included in the Clery Report. She noted that more than half of these reports are about incidents that happened to people prior to their arrival at USF, but are still impacting their lives.
Reports of rape and dating violence seem to be increasing at the highest rate of any other crime, according to the Clery Report. At first glance, these numbers may look like a bad thing, but Varga and Lt. Dillon both believe the increase is the result of more people reporting as opposed to an increase of these crimes occurring.
Reports of rape and dating violence seem to be increasing at the highest rate of any other crime, according to the Clery Report.
“It’s not that incidents are occurring more,” Varga said. “We already know that [sexual assault is] an underreported crime universally. But I think that in the time that we’ve seen some of the increases in our Clery reporting, people are becoming more aware of the resources and ways to report on campus.”
When asked why students may be more willing to report these crimes, Varga pointed to recent social justice campaigns like the Me Too movement, as well as the hard work of students and staff on-campus.
“I think with increased attention and collaboration with a lot of folks across campus, we have been marketing the ways to get resources and support and that naturally will increase numbers,” Varga said.
Both Varga and Lt. Dillon urge students to be aware of their surroundings and the decisions that they make, especially when partying off-campus.
“People drinking, great, people socializing, great, exchanging phone numbers, great — but the understanding should be that we came together and we leave together,” said Lt. Dillon. “And while we’re at the party, we don’t let anyone go upstairs by themselves, that kind of stuff.”
Varga also pointed out the importance of personal responsibility for your own behavior and being a supportive community member. When asked about what can be done to help reduce these crimes, Varga emphasized the importance of getting consent before engaging in sexual activity to ensure a safe and positive experience for everyone involved, as well as the responsibility of bystanders to intervene in any situation that seems questionable.
“That foundational bystander intervention model is what you should be doing as a good friend and a good community member,” Varga said. “Everyone should be sharing that we don’t tolerate that, and if something is happening then we are going to step in and make sure that you are okay and get you connected to the right resources.”