Changes in crime statistics largely due to changes in reporting processes| Oct 1, 2014
Decreases in the number of sexual assaults reported on campus and increases in burglaries might be attributed to changes in the way these statistics are reported, University officials said on Wednesday in response to the University's Annual Security & Fire Report, which was released Tuesday.
This year, the most significant change was made to the reporting of sex offenses. Previously, offenses were split into two categories: forcible and non-forcible sex offenses. These categories comprised not just offenses reported to the Department of Public Safety but also those reported confidentially to Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education. In 2012, there were 17 forcible sex offenses and no non-forcible sex offenses reported.
This year, however, the two categories have been replaced by four other categories: sexual assaults, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking incidents. Numbers reported confidentially to SHARE are no longer included in the statistics portion of the report but instead are included in the narrative portion of the report. In 2013, there were six sexual assaults, four incidents of domestic violence and one incident of stalking. In addition, 17 incidents were reported confidentially to SHARE.
“Confidentiality has never changed. When SHARE reports a statistic to us, it's reporting a number. They do not give the name or anything like that. It’s just a number; it’s just a statistic,” DPS Associate Director of Support Services Duncan Harrison said.
SHARE Director Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse said its services will not be directly affected by the changes in the Clery Act and that SHARE continues to put forth its own statistics on sex offenses to inform the campus community.
For example, the American College Health Association’s National Collegiate Health Assessment survey reported in 2014 that approximately one out of six Princeton students, both male and female, reported experiencing interpersonal violence that year, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, attempted/actual sexual penetration or touching without consent, emotionally or physically abusive relationships, stalking and any other conduct of an unwanted sexual nature.
“The services we provide in SHARE will not be affected [by differences in reporting],” Deitch-Stackhouse said. “These data points serve as confirmation that these issues do exist. ... Any data we put forward is the start of the conversation so that we know what the issues are.”
Deitch-Stackhouse noted that SHARE works from a victim-empowerment model and, while these statistics will not directly affect its work, it is always seeking to improve its services.
Although the number of sexual assaults included in the statistics portion of the report declined, the total number of crimes reported increased largely due to a spike in burglaries. However, Harrison and Director of Operations Stefanie Karp cautioned against attributing this spike to a particular cause.
Harrison and Karp clarified that Clery reporting regulations require that Universities report the number of victims in a burglary rather than the number of incidents. For example, if a burglar entered a one-person room and a six-person room, those would be two separate incidents, but with a total of seven victims, which is recorded as seven in the statistics. The same holds true for offices: if a burglar enters an office where five people work, there are five victims counted and five is reported in the statistics. A spike in the numbers, thus, could be attributed to either a rise in the number of incidents or a change in the types of residences that are experiences burglaries.
The report also now includes a section on personal safety, which Karp said is an effort to make the report as useful as possible to the campus community.
"We’re continuing to improve our report, in the end, to see how it would best benefit the community,” Karp said. “We just felt the report is … about safety and security, so we’re trying to enhance that.