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University releases annual fire safety and security report

<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: The following article contains mention of rape and sexual violence.

On Sept. 29, Princeton’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) released its yearly write-up on crime on campus, which reported four fires, 42 motor vehicle thefts, and dozens of reports of sexual misconduct on the main campus in 2021.

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DPS publishes the security report annually, pursuant to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The Clery Act, established in 1990, requires all universities to publish a report each year by Oct. 1 that contains crime statistics from the previous three years for the University and adjoining areas. The act also requires that universities issue campus alerts about crime on campus and publish a daily public crime log.

The report also documented all incidents of sexual assault and violent crime reported to University officials. There were 10 reported rapes on campus and five incidents of fondling, an increase from 2020, when there were five and zero, respectively. There were two reports of dating violence and one each of domestic violence and stalking.

The report includes only those incidents of sexual offenses reported to University officials, not those reported to confidential counselors such as the Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources, and Education (SHARE) office. This information, which the Clery Act does not require the University to publish, was listed separately: 23 sexual assaults, 12 fondling offenses, and six stalking incidents were reported to confidential resources. 

Commenting on the equivalent of this report in 2021, University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss clarified that the sexual assault figures recorded in the security report and those reported via confidential University resources do not overlap.

The report showed four fires in student housing with isolated incidents in Forbes Annex, Wu Hall, Lawrence apartments, and Lakeside apartments. All caused minor damages — between “$0–$99” — except the incident in the Lawrence apartment, which caused between $1,000 and $9,999 in damages.

Each of the reported fires started in kitchens: in Forbes, a laminated sign was too close to a stovetop burner; in Wu, cooking fuel was placed in a trash can without cooling; in Lakeside, oil burned in a frying pan; in Lawrence, “combustibles [were] placed on the stovetop with [the] burner control accidentally turned on.” 

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According to Section 485 of the Higher Education Act, the University is only required to report on fires in residence halls. Thus, the report did not mention any fires in academic buildings.

There were 42 motor vehicle thefts in 2021, up from 11 in 2020 but similar to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic figure of 39 in 2019. Per New Jersey law, golf carts and electric scooters are considered motor vehicles, but bicycles are not. Fourteen golf carts and 27 scooters were stolen in 2021.

In 2021, there were no reports of manslaughter, aggravated assault, or arson. There was one reported hate crime. No further information in the report was available regarding the hate crime. No crimes were reported at the Forrestal campus.

A footnote in the report reads that “in 2021 there were no crimes unfounded by the Department of Public Safety.” This means that DPS completed no investigations in which no crime had actually occurred.

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The report showed a general trend of an increase in crime in the last year compared to 2020, returning to levels similar to 2019. This trend may be related to the return of more students to campus in 2021, following the near-total evacuation of campus for much of 2020.

The crime figures are recorded throughout the year by public safety officers, who enter all reports of crime into a record management system. All reports are reviewed and “periodically examine[d]” so that “all reported crimes are recorded in accordance with the crime definitions outlined in the FBI ‘Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook.’”

Outside of crime figures, the report defines various terms surrounding sexual assault and other sexual misconduct. It also outlines DPS’s mission and services, and describes resources available to students to help with alcohol abuse, drug use, and sexual offenses.

Gabriel Robare is the head Puzzles editor and a senior writer who has covered theater, baseball, productivity, campus life, and more. He can be reached at grobare@princeton.edu or on social media @GabrielRobare.

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