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2018 Crime Report: higher numbers, probably just better reporting

Saint Vincent College’s annual Security and Fire Safety report was released at the end of September 2018. The document provides data on reported criminal offenses over the last three years. The college is legally bound to release such a report every year, according to Sgt. Stephanie Fago, head of campus security.

“The report seeks to provide transparency regarding campus crime policy and statistics,” Fago said.

The report consists of several parts: a hate crimes report for the college and another for the seminary, and then a general crimes report for each. Fire safety reports are included as well, though they indicate that no fires occurred over the past three years. Relatively few major crimes are listed at Saint Vincent. For example, there were four vehicle thefts reported in 2015, but none since then. A handful of burglaries have also been reported each year.

However, it is important to note that the numbers do not necessarily equal crime rates, due to the report listing crime reports instead of actual crimes.

“Saint Vincent includes such reports regardless of whether the incidents have been investigated by the Pennsylvania State Police or the College, and regardless of whether a finding of guilt or responsibility has been made,” Fago said.

Alcohol and drug violations appear to have increased substantially over the last three years. Six drug violations are listed for 2015, only two for 2016, but twenty for last year. Alcohol violations jumped about twenty percent, from 80 to 102, over the same three-year span.

Once again, though, the increase may be merely a result of how reports are collected, according to Bob Baum, dean of students. Baum oversees referrals and discipline for alcohol and drug violations.

“I believe that it is mostly a product of better reporting,” Baum said. “These are referrals for drug and alcohol violations and don't necessarily mean that a student was found responsible for violating policy, but rather that an initial report was made.”

Baum added that Saint Vincent surveys incoming freshmen each year, and that drinking rates are consistently below national averages.

“Our survey rates are consistently lower than the national average. For example, 71% of our incoming freshmen this fall reported being non-drinkers, compared to 54% nationally,” Baum said.

Saint Vincent is a wet campus; alcohol is permitted in dormitories for those students who have reached legal drinking age. But Baum doesn’t think those policies are cause for concern, as the statistics cited above seem to indicate low overall levels of drinking.

Baum highlighted the college’s efforts to prevent dangerous drinking, stating that the school addresses alcohol and substance abuse issues before students even begin classes, talks with both students and families together during summer orientation programs about the concerns of alcohol misuse and abuse, and offers ways families can support their students in making wise choices in this area.

“We build upon this effort with speakers and residence hall floor discussions, and throughout the year, efforts continue focused toward all students, including Healthy Campus Fairs, programming, posters and other educational messaging,” Baum stated.

The report also lists reported rates of sex crimes. Here too, the numbers aren’t out of place compared to similar colleges, Eileen Flinn, Title IX coordinator, said. However, unlike the other crimes listed, the amount of actual sex crimes may be higher than indicated by the report.

“Sexual assaults are under-reported on college campuses, and in general,” Flinn said. “There are many reasons why students do not report. The primary reason rests with the fear of being punished for violating the school’s policies on drug and alcohol use. Saint Vincent provides amnesty in such cases.”

As with the other crimes, though, all reports are listed, including ones that haven’t been investigated.

The full reports are available for download on the Public Safety page of the Saint Vincent College website.

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