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An annual crime statistics report for Oregon State University shows a steady increase in reported burglary and stalking cases over the past three years.

The report also shows an increase in hate crimes reported in 2016 over the two previous years.

Called the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, the document is produced by the school each year in accordance with the Clery Act, a federal law requiring universities to disclose campus crime statistics. 

The report lists statistics for murder/manslaughter, manslaughter by negligence, rape, fondling, incest, statutory rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and arson. Additional offenses in the report are domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. The document also includes weapons arrests, drug abuse arrests and liquor law arrests, as well as weapons referrals, drug abuse referrals, liquor law referrals and hate crimes.

Referrals pertain to when a student is found to be in violation of a drug or liquor law, such as minor in possession, and are referred to the university’s student conduct and community standards process for support and sanctions, said Michele Spaulding, OSU’s Clery compliance manager.

The document includes all incidents reported to the university through campus security, as well as those disclosed by resident assistants, coaches, advisers and others. Some offenses are reported to the school by Oregon State Police, the Corvallis Police Department and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

The report includes crimes that were reported to the university but did not end up being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s office. If law enforcement officers determined a crime did not occur, the incident may be included in the “unfounded” category of the report; but the most recent report, issued at the end of September, included only two unfounded offenses, both for aggravated assault.

The crime statistics include all reported offenses that occurred on campus, as well as on any property controlled by the university or an officially recognized OSU student organization. Crimes that occur on public property (including thoroughfares, streets, sidewalks and parking facilities) within the campus, or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus, are also included.

The numbers

The number of reported burglaries in 2014 was 13. In 2015, it was 29, and in 2016, that number increased to 42.

On-campus administrative buildings have seen the greatest increase in burglaries, and typically computer equipment or laptops were taken, Spaulding said. Noncampus locations such as storage facilities the university owns or leases are also often the target of burglars.

In 2016, some locations had multiple reported incidents, Spaulding said, and a few suspects have accounted for multiple burglaries on campus.

As for stalking cases, Spaulding believes the rise of reported cases is due to an increased prevalence of online dating and communication through social media. In addition, the university has provided training sessions about stalking so the behavior can be more readily identified.

In 2014, the campus saw six reported stalking cases. That number was 20 in 2015 and 33 in 2016.

The university classifies stalking as conduct that prompts a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer emotional distress. This includes cyberstalking and harassment over a telephone, Spaulding said.

In 2016, the school had an accused stalker with multiple victims, she said.

Spaulding said one reason for an increase in reported hate crimes could be efforts by the school to make it easier to report such incidents. The university’s recently formed Office of Institutional Diversity introduced an online bias incident reporting form to give the campus community a centralized and easily accessible reporting option, she said.

The school had four reported hate crime incidents in 2016. Three were on-campus and one took place on public property. One on-campus incident was a simple assault characterized as sexual orientation bias; another was intimidation, such as the use of threatening words, and was classified as religious bias; the third was also intimidation and was characterized as ethnic bias. The offense on public property was intimidation and classified as ethnic bias.

OSU had one reported hate crime incident in 2015, which was intimidation and characterized as ethnic bias. No hate crimes were reported in 2014.

The crime statistics exhibit a modest increase in reported aggravated assaults, with two such reports in 2014, six reports in 2015 (with an additional two unfounded reports) and 12 reports in 2016.

“Our on-campus law enforcement sees this increase as a normal fluctuation given Oregon State’s growth,” Spaulding said. (The Corvallis campus had 24,760 students in 2017's fall term.)

The report shows an increase in drug abuse referrals and a decrease in liquor law referrals. Spaulding said most of the on-campus drug referrals were violations of the law that prohibits anyone from using marijuana in a public place.

“Given recent changes in state law regarding the use of recreational marijuana, it is reasonable to assume that the increase, at least in part, can be attributed to a lack of understanding of the new laws,” Spaulding said.

She said the public safety department is working with members of the campus community to educate students on marijuana laws and university policies.

The reports for domestic violence offenses have remained steady over the three-year period, with between four and six reports each year.

Similarly, the reports for rape have remained relatively even, with eight reports in 2014, 16 reports in 2015 and 14 reports in 2016.

Fire statistics

The report also includes fire statistics for each on-campus student housing facility. The numbers show a sharp uptick in fires during the three-year period.

In 2014, two fires were reported; in 2015, four blazes were reported; and in 2016, 14 fires were reported.

However, Fire Prevention Officer Jim Patton said the majority of those fires are small and cause little to no property damage.

“It’s not alarming or concerning for us,” Patton said.

According to the report, two of the fires reported in 2016 caused between $1,000 and $9,999 in property damage. Another two fires that year caused between $100 and $999 in damage. The remaining resulted in lesser values of property damage.

None of the fires reported in 2014-2016 resulted in injuries, according to the report.

Patton said fires on campus are typically kitchen fires, such as a stove fire or a blaze caused by a faulty microwave. Many others are the result of students “screwing around,” such as lighting a gum wrapper on fire or burning toilet paper, incidents that could be characterized as arson, Patton said.

According to the report, the school had one arson report in 2014, two reports in 2015 and seven reports in 2016. Patton said he doesn’t consider the increase in arson reports to be concerning.

“I’m not minimizing it but they were minor occurrences and not substantial arson attempts where substantial damage was done,” he said.

Patton said all fires, regardless of how minor, are reported to Oregon State Police for investigation. Troopers will interview residence hall staff members and keep an eye out for trends. A student found to be responsible could face university sanctions and criminal charges for reckless burning or arson, Patton said.

He said the increase in reports could be attributed to more education for resident assistants regarding fires, resulting in more rigorous reporting. Patton said RAs are even required to report burn marks on furniture.

Safety information

In addition to the crime and fire statistics, the report also includes safety information for students, such as how to register a cellphone for campus notifications and details on resources offered for crime prevention and victim assistance.

Spaulding said Clery Act reporting provides prospective students and parents with an avenue to compare institutions based on public safety. The U.S. Department of Education has created an online tool to retrieve safety and security data for specific schools and to compare schools. That tool can be found here: https://ope.ed.gov/campussafety/#/

Lillian Schrock covers public safety for the Gazette-Times. She may be reached at 541-758-9548 or lillian.schrock@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter at @LillieSchrock. 

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