Crime on campus

Portland State’s Campus Public Safety Office released its annual Campus Security and Fire Safety reports in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act of 1990, which was amended in 2013 by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. These two acts require all universities receiving public funds to report crimes that occurred on campus in the previous calendar year.

The documents for PSU’s 2016 report were sent out in a campus-wide email from CPSO and provide statistics for on-campus crimes from 2013–15. CPSO Chief Phillip Zerzan commented that trends in the data show drug arrests have gone down, while sexual assault-related crimes such as stalking and rape have gone up. Zerzan attributes these trends to recent changes in law and policy.

As of July 27, 2015, marijuana has been decriminalized in the state of Oregon. “While this is still considered a university policy violation that can still result in a disciplinary referral, marijuana is no longer a state law violation and is not included in the drug arrest and drug referral data, which has decreased our numbers of drug arrests and referrals this year,” Zerzan said.

According to the report, on-campus drug abuse violations have fallen from 55 arrests in 2014 to 30 in 2015. Similarly, disciplinary referrals from on-campus drug abuse violations have fallen from 127 in 2014 to 62 in 2015.

Zerzan said he believes the rise in sex crimes reports “is a positive trend as these crimes are significantly underreported.” Starting in 2015, CPSO aimed many of its current prevention and awareness programs toward the Violence Against Women Act in hope of raising awareness for crimes against women and to encourage survivors and witnesses of these crimes to step forward and file reports. VAWA has also required universities to report stalking incidents, which may account for the spike in on-campus stalking reports—from 6 in 2014 to 17 in 2015.

The first six weeks of classes on college campuses in the fall are often deemed the “Red Zone” due to the increase in sex crimes that occurs during this time. Chief Zerzan said that although CPSO is aware of the phenomenon, they have not noticed such a trend on PSU’s campus.

CPSO, as well as the many resource centers on campus, would like to emphasize the services they provide in response to sex crimes and other crimes on campus. “As a community, we need to watch out for each other,” Zerzan said. “For property safety, please keep items with you. For personal safety, be aware of your surroundings and call Campus Public Safety at 503-725-4407 for any concerns or for an escort.”

Adrienne Graf, sexual and relationship violence response program coordinator at the Women’s Resource Center, would like to reiterate that students of all genders can access interpersonal violence advocacy services. Though many of PSU’s faculty and staff are obligated under Title IX to report when instances of sexual violence are disclosed to them, the WRC has confidential advocates who allow survivors and witnesses of sexual assault and sex crimes to report instances and get help in their own time.

“I want students to know all their options,” Graf said. “We now have after-hours peer advocates for evenings and weekends, as well.” Students interested in becoming advocates can take the Sexual Violence Prevention Education and Response course taught during fall and winter quarters.

Multicultural Affairs Director Alex Herrera of the Associated Students of PSU commented that the group’s campus safety reform policy blueprint for this year is focused on disarmament, training and accountability within CPSO.

According to Zerzan, CPSO is focusing on proactive patrolling and creating a robust interaction with the community to establish a positive relationship in order to reduce crime. “An increase in the ability to respond and investigate crimes occurring on campus by this office permits a more holistic approach to crime reduction, as well as providing a seamless integration with campus resources such as the Dean of Students Office, Student Health and Counseling and Title IX, to address criminal activity,” he said.

Other crimes that are not reflected in the Clery report include thefts and vehicle break-ins. Zerzan said that the Clery report is very specific about what crimes must be reported, and because PSU is an urban campus, crimes occurring in close proximity to but not on school property are not reflected in this report, despite affecting students and staff.

If interested in becoming a student advocate, contact Graf at [email protected] or Amy Kayon at [email protected].