2020 CLERY Report shows fewer crimes reported after 2020 COVID-19 shutdown

By Austin Thompson | December 3, 2021 12:05pm
The 2020 CLERY report showed a significant decrease in overall violations.
Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

The 2020 CLERY report, released Sept. 30, shows a significant decrease in overall violations, largely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic keeping students off campus for most of 2020. 

Director of Public Safety Sara Westbrook said that the majority of the data gathered for this year is from the brief window of time that students were on campus. 

While nearly all crimes reported in 2020 saw a decrease from previous years, the report shows that burglaries tripled from 2019 from one to three. Westbrook said that a lack of students and faculty on campus meant there was less of a deterrent for individuals attempting to break in. 

The CLERY report is released every year and is released by calendar year rather than academic year. It contains only crimes that are reported to Campus Safety officers. Submission of a yearly report is required by all colleges and universities by order of the Clery Act in order to receive federal funding.

The annual CLERY report includes statistics from crimes that occur on property owned by the University of Portland including the campus itself, adjacent sidewalks, parking lots, UP-owned housing and any property owned or controlled by a student organization. Private residences, such as those rented by UP students, are not included in the report.

Most major crime statistics were down in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Graph made by Austin Thompson.


The lack of inclusion of off-campus crimes and incidents, such as those occurring at non-UP owned rental houses, means the CLERY report may not paint a full picture. 

“If something happens just across the street in a rental house not owned by the University of Portland, we don’t count it,” said Westbrook. “It’s so frustrating because people make allegations of sexual assault, domestic violence, and interpersonal violence but we can’t put it into the report.”

Both drug and liquor law violations were significantly down in 2020 compared to 2019 and 2018. Graph made by Austin Thompson.

For reasons like this, associate professor of criminology Bryan Rookey notes that many reports like the CLERY report fail to capture an accurate image of violations that actually occur. 

“The University and Campus Safety only report what has been reported to them or what they find,” Rookey said. “There’s always a gap between crime that actually exists and occurs in society and the amount that we know.”

The Clery Act only requires certain crimes to be reported in the annual report, including, murder, rape, and burglary. Other crimes, such as bicycle thefts — a major issue on college campuses — are not included in the CLERY report. 

Austin Thompson is a reporter with the Beacon. He can be reached at thompsau22@up.edu