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Princeton releases campus security and fire safety statistics for 2020

<h5>The entrance to the Department of Public Safety.</h5>
<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
The entrance to the Department of Public Safety.
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

Content warning: This story contains mentions of rape and physical violence. 

The University Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) crime log shows that five rapes, three robberies, 14 burglaries, and two instances of arson were reported to University officials and campus police in the Princeton area in 2020, according to the department’s annual security and fire safety report.

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Within the same calendar year, the University reported one fire in student housing. According to the DPS report, no injuries resulted from the fire, with “only minor to no property damage.” 

The fire incident involved a graduate student using an oven without noticing food residue leftover from previous use. According to the report, the residue produced flame and smoke within the oven but ultimately did not damage it. 

The report is published each year by Oct. 1 in compliance with federal regulations. Passed in 1990, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, otherwise known as the Clery Act, requires universities to release annual reports consisting of campus crime statistics spanning the past three years and issue timely campus alerts with health and safety information, among other provisions.

The sexual assault data published within the crime log section of the report includes only those assaults reported directly to University officials, which are thus mandated for public disclosure under the Clery Act. It does not include assaults reported to confidential counselors employed by the University, such as those in the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources and Education (SHARE) office.

The crime log tracks reported instances of rape, fondling, incest, statutory rape, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. In addition to the five rapes reported in 2020, the report showed one instance of dating violence, one instance of domestic violence, and two instances of stalking. 

In 2018 and 2019, a total of 21 rapes, 27 incidents of fondling, six incidents of dating violence, two incidents of domestic violence, and seven incidents of stalking were reported in the Princeton area to University officials, according to the report. 

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There were no instances of fondling on campus reported to University officials for 2020, and no instances of incest or statutory rape reported on campus in the past three years.

In a different section of the report, however, the DPS included sex offense data from reports to confidential resources. Within 2020, confidential counselors received reports of six sexual assaults, two domestic violence offenses, two dating violence offenses, three fondling offenses, and two stalking incidents.

Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss confirmed in an email to The Daily Princetonian that there is no overlap between sexual assault data recorded in the crime log and that reported via confidential University resources — indicating that, in total, 11 sexual assaults, three incidents of dating violence, three incidents of domestic violence, and four instances of stalking were reported in some form on campus in 2020. 

In general, reported criminal activity appears to have declined over the past three years on campus — a trend that may possibly be explained by the evacuation of students from campus in March 2020 and the stringent COVID-19 restrictions imposed on the fewer than 300 undergraduates who lived on campus in the fall of 2020.

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DPS compiles the crime statistics, found in full starting on page 44 of the report, throughout the year. Safety officers enter all reports of crime incidents that are made directly to DPS into a computer-aided dispatch and record management system, according to the report. 

After an officer enters a report into the system, an administrator for DPS reviews it to ensure that the report is properly classified, the annual report explained. The department also examines the logs to ensure they are classified in accordance with the FBI’s “Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook” crime definitions.

In 2018, 27 total burglaries were reported in the Princeton area  — a figure that dropped to 15 total in 2019 and 14 in 2020. There were two robberies reported in 2019 and three in 2020. 

In 2020, there were 11 recorded incidents of motor vehicle theft, which, according to the report, includes thefts of golf carts and motorized scooters. In 2019, by comparison, there had been 39 incidents of motor vehicle theft and in 2018, there were 17 such instances. 

There were no criminal homicide reports on campus in the past three years, according to DPS, and there was one incident of aggravated assault between 2018 and 2020. 

One hate crime incident was reported in 2020. 

While the DPS report’s crime log section indicates the incident, a footnote within the report said that there were no hate crimes reported on campus during that year. Hotchkiss clarified to the ‘Prince’ that the footnote was made in error and DPS will be working to update the report to correct it.

The report also noted that in 2020, there were “no crimes unfounded” by DPS, meaning that there were no incidents in which an investigation by the department found that the reported crime had not actually occurred.

In addition to crime and fire safety statistics for 2020, the annual report includes explanations of the University’s Title IX offense definitions and protocols, initiatives aimed at sexual misconduct prevention and crime prevention and awareness education programs offered to community members, protocols and hotline numbers for contacting DPS and other campus resources, protocols around Tiger Safe alerts, alcohol and illicit drugs policies, and more. 

A message within the report from Assistant Vice President for Public Safety Kenneth Strother Jr. also noted two new changes for DPS enacted in 2020. 

In October 2020, as the ‘Prince’ reported at the time, the University established an advisory committee for the department as part of an overall effort to combat systemic racism. The committee is co-chaired by Dean of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion LaTanya Buck and Professor of Anthropology Laurence Ralph. 

Marie-Rose Sheinerman is a senior writer who has reported on COVID-19 policy, faculty controversy, sexual harassment allegations, major donors, campus protests, and more. She can be reached at ms78@princeton.edu or on Twitter at @rosesheinerman. She previously served as an editor of news and features and now assists with content strategy.

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