Annual crime report shows increase in some violations
The recently released Public Safety showed an increase in reports of alcohol violations on campus properties and at official UP events. The increase followed a trend of rising reports of alcohol violations since at least 2012.
Director of Public Safety Gerry Gregg said this could be a result of better recording, documenting and counting of incidents by Public Safety and Residence Life.
The report also showed crimes, such as weapons violations, stalking and sexual assaults, had more reports than the last few years. None of the weapons violations involved firearms.
The annual report records crimes on the University of Portland campus, university-owned rental houses, public property immediately adjacent to the campus, such as the sidewalk along Willamette Blvd, and venues the university rents such as the Crystal Ballroom or Left Bank Annex during the two Campus Program Board annual dances.
Residence Life Associate Director for Community Standards Sarah Meiser explained in an email that the increase in reports of alcohol violations could be due to a change in recording practices.
“In 2015, (the university) began using a student conduct database and incident report software called Maxient,” Meiser wrote. “Maxient allowed us to more easily create and accurately report records related to student conduct.”
In 2016, Residence Life clarified the expectations for how hall staff should deal with minor incidents of drinking, Meiser said, such as first-time underage possession where students were not a danger to themselves or others.
“Residence Life leadership created a way for hall staff to have these educational conversations with students but maintain record of these conversations using Maxient and did more intentional training of the hall staff about the educational and non-adversarial nature of the student conduct process,” Meiser wrote.
She said the change in the reporting practices likely contributes to the increase in reported liquor law violations.
Of the five weapons violations in 2017 — four more weapons than in 2016 — four were knives (one pocket knife), and one was pepper spray, Gregg said. All violations were reported in residence halls according to the report.
There were seven reported cases of stalking in 2017, four more than 2015 and 2016. The report defines stalking as: “Engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his/her safety or the safety of others; or, suffer substantial emotional distress.” This includes cyber-stalking and surveillance among more conventional definitions.
Gregg said both the increases in weapons and stalking violations were random.
But the increase in sexual assault reports to five in 2017 could be due to growing discussions of sexual assault on college campuses, both locally and nationwide, Gregg said.
The crimes listed in the report only reflect those reported or known to Public Safety. The difference between crimes known to officials and the number that actually occurs . Changes in annual reports may not reflect actual differences in crime and could be a result of changes in enforcement or reporting.
Sam Cushing is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.