This month, in accordance with federal law, NMU’s Public Safety and Police Services released their annual security report of crime statistics from 2008. The report showed a substantial increase in reported liquor law violations from 2007, while other crimes such as criminal sexual conduct, burglary and drug law violations showed little change.
The report showed an increase of reported liquor law violations from 38 cases in 2007 and 25 in 2006, to 90 cases in 2008. Capt. Jeff Mincheff, the assistant director of Police Services at NMU’s Public Safety and Police Services, said that these cases could include any sort of alcohol related crime such as Minor in Possession, furnishing to minors, and driving under the influence.
Mincheff said that it is nearly impossible to attribute the increase to any one specific thing.
“A large number of variables play a part in what crimes occur and how many are actually reported,” he said. “It could be anything.”
However, Mincheff said some possible explanations are that Public Safety was able to have more officers out at night than in the past and that students may have found them more accessible.
Mincheff also said that, so far, there has been no indication that there will be an increase of alcohol related violations for this year.
“We’ll have to see how it goes, but I don’t see an immediate increase this far in 2009,” he said. “In just reviewing complaints, we are consistent with where we were last year, and our numbers will probably come out average, compared to the last five to six years.”
Public Safety released the report, which is available on their Web site, at their office and on the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site, in the beginning of October. The report is mandated by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which was formally known as the Campus Security Act. The law is named after Jeanne Clery, a 19 year old freshman at Lehigh University who was raped and murdered in her residence hall in 1986.
Every public institution that receives federal assistance is required to release an annual report of crimes which have occurred on or near their campus.
“It is mandated and required that we do this or we would be in violation of federal requirements, which could mean our federal funding,” said Mincheff.
While compiling the report involves a lot of time and effort, the information it provides is vital for students to have, said Mincheff.
“It’s work, but it’s such an informational thing that students never had 20 years ago,” he said. “Knowledge is power. And it will give them the power to make good decisions, and help to provide a safe and secure environment for learning.”
Lenny Shible, a health promotion specialist at NMU, said that the results of the report help the Health Promotion Office (HPO) keep an eye on campus drinking trends.
“It’s always good to be able to keep track of what’s happening on campus for departments like ours,” he said.
Shible said that while the number of reported alcohol violations has increased, he has not seen a substantial increase in students being referred for alcohol violations by the Dean of Students to the alcohol education classes that the HPO offers.
“We have not seen an increase in referrals to our program relative to the increase at public safety,” he said. “This might suggest that a number of Public Safety’s cases are first time violations or not serious violations of campus policy.”
Cindy Paavola, the director of communications and marketing for NMU, said that because students and their families have a legal right to access the information provided by the Clery Act, it can help them understand what is happening at their university.
“It gives them a broad overview of how safe a campus is . and it provides an element of transparency so that the public can be aware of any trends,” she said.
Paavola said that often, changes in these statistics can be attributed to something the university has done logistically and not a dramatic change in student behavior.
“[For example] if you have more officers patrolling a particular area looking for underage drinking it will change your numbers,” she said. “If it’s a change in student behavior, we will look to the appropriate offices on campus to make some suggestions, but if it’s logistical then there is no need to make a change.”
Paavola said that while the cause of the increase in alcohol related violations is still unknown, the university is analyzing the information provided by the security report. Paavola also said that NMU and Marquette are still safe when compared to other campuses and cities.
“No university is 100 percent crime free,” she said. “I think that the crime statistics show that when you compare us to other universities, our claim to be a safe campus is supported.”