West Virginia U. Debates 51 Miscoded Crime Classifications With Department Of Education

This story was written by , The Daily Athenaeum
In West Virginia Universitys recently submitted response to the U.S. Department of Educations preliminary program review report, Chief of University Police Bob Roberts said that the issue at hand is about the classification of crimes, especially theft crimes such as burglary and larceny.The University is debating a total of 51 classifications that the DOE called miscoded.According to the DOE report, in 2001 there were 39 burglaries at WVU. This is in contrast to the 14 burglary incidents cited in WVUs records at the time. The internal audit performed by the University in response to the DOE report also notes only 14 burglaries took place in that year.Roberts said that the DOE classified many incidents as burglaries when they did not fit the standard definition. These incidents were classified by the University as larceny offenses.In 2002, the other year audited by the DOE, 57 burglary offenses were found, in contrast to the 29 reported by the University. After the internal audit, WVUs records show 28 incidents.As with the year before, many of the contested incidents were classified as larcenies.According to Roberts, this is because the definition of burglary requires that there be evidence of trespassing. In many cases, incidents involving the removal of items from a University dorm room were classified as thefts from a building because of the public nature of residence halls.In support of this, Roberts offered correspondence between the University Police and the FBI in which the situation of thefts from a residence hall are discussed.According to Roberts, the sources of many of the issues raised by the DOE report were interpretive and administrative problems, stemming from the police officers individual judgements on the situations.Without the officers input, you cant just place everything in one box or put everything into a single category, Roberts said.He said that reporting discrepancies arose from classifications contained within the FBIs Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The UCR system is used across the nation to provide a standard method of crime reporting.According to Roberts, the UCR system is vague because of the differences in crime coding in the laws of individual states, which leads to the lines being blurred between offense classifications.But Daniel Carter, senior vice president of Security On Campus the security watchdog group that called for the review said that state definitions are never used to compare schools.You dont use the state definition for your crime reporting under the Jeanne Clery Act, you use the uniform national definition so you can compare schools in different states, he said. That way youre comparing apples to apples.According to Carter, it is important to note that burglary differs from larceny because it includes an increased element of personal risk.Offered within WVUs response is the explanation that during the period covered in the DOE report, the Universitys officers were collecting and classifying UCR reports using the National Incident-Based Reporting System.The DOE report concerned the University Police Departments crime reporting practices and compliance with the Clery Act.The Clery Act requires that universities publicly disclose information and statistics about crime on campus.The Universitys response includes data found in the DOEs preliminary report, WVUs original records and records from an internal audit performed by the University after receiving the DOE report.This report is based on the Universitys crime reporting practices in the years 2001 and 2002.The report is the result of a review that took place after SOC called attention to WVU, calling it the worst case in crime reporting practices they had seen at the time.While the report outlined several specific areas for WVU to respond to, the largest point of contention was the under-reporting and miscoding of selected crime classifications of Part I offnses which are felonies including forcible sex offenses, aggravated assaults and burglaries.In its response, the University described several changes that have been made since the DOEs review.The University Police now use new software and management systems to track Clery Report records to prevent administrative errors from occurring.According to Roberts, in the past, officers would file a report but might not file changes that were made during follow-ups.Other changes made by the University include annual audits of the recording practices of WVUs campus security officials.These officials are University staff who have significant responsibility for campus activities and create permanent records of judicial or disciplinary actions.Beginning in spring 2009, campus security officials will undergo annual training to reaffirm the importance of Clery Act compliance.The DOE must review WVUs response before crafting its final report.Theyll look at our response and will either accept our changes or they wont. A decision will be made about whether the violations are significant enough to warrant fines, Roberts said.In a letter to the DOE included in WVUs response, Roberts said, ...we acknowledge that errors occurred in our reporting program, but these were never meant to reduce crime statistics as they were simply human error.
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