Reports of sex crimes and drug violations are increasing at Ohio University at the same time overall crime reports are decreasing, a shift that mirrors national trends.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released crime and safety data that show an increase in reported forcible sex crimes and drug law violations. At the same time, total reported crimes decreased on college and university campuses throughout the U.S. 

There are parallels between the OU numbers and the national numbers. Reported forcible sex crimes, including rape and sexual imposition, have more than tripled nationally between 2001 and 2015. Reports tripled at Ohio University between 2014 and 2015 but have since decreased by 14 percent between 2015 and 2017. 

Reported drug law violations have increased 63 percent nationally between 2001 and 2015. At OU from 2014 to 2017, drug law violations increased by about 80 percent. Those violations include possession of controlled substances, possession of marijuana paraphernalia and drug trafficking.

"It is hard to tell exactly what may be causing this," OUPD Lt. Tim Ryan said in an email. "It could be that society’s view of marijuana use is becoming less stigmatized, resulting in increased use.  It might also be that we have significantly increased our staffing over the last few years, so we have more people out to detect and respond to various violations."

The rise in those reports comes at the same time that total reported crimes decreased by about 40 percent nationally between 2006 and 2015. At OU, total reported crimes have fluctuated considerably since 2014. They increased about 45 percent between 2014 and 2016 and decreased by 12 percent between 2016 and 2017.

A factor that OU Student Senate vice president-elect Hannah Burke thinks influences the increase in reported forcible sex crimes is a recent change in the culture regarding reporting sexual misconduct and rape cases.

“While it is really terrible that all these victims are coming forward, it's good that we are starting to live in a culture that lets survivors tell their stories and go to the police,” Burke, who is on The Post Publishing Board, said.

OUPD has recently partnered with the Survivor Advocacy Program, Women’s Center and Campus Involvement Center to participate in the Start by Believing campaign.

"We hope that our commitment to this campaign inspires trust in us and that sexual assault victims can see OUPD as a safe place to report crime," Ryan said. 

Student Senate President Landen Lama said drug law violations could see an increase due to the rise in the criminalization of certain types of drugs. Lama said he thinks the university and OUPD handle both drug law violations and forcible sex crimes well on campus.

“I think students should be really happy and supportive of OUPD and that they are apprehending these people quickly, and its getting done to where the greater population is not being harmed,” Lama said.

Burke said she is looking forward to working with the city and the university next year to improve lighting to make the campus safer.

Student Senate has been actively working with the university to find more solutions to decrease the number of forcible sex crimes committed on campus. This past year, Student Senate worked with Parking and Transportation Services so that bus routes would pick people up off campus 24 hours a day. 

Student Senate also organized a safety walk in December to determine what parts of campus need better lighting. The walk led senators and university administrators, including OU President Duane Nellis, around campus to point out certain areas of concern. 

“If you had gone on a tour with your parents at night, would your parents feel safe sending you here?” Burke said. “I am not sure everyone’s parents would because of how dark it can be.”

The study also discussed trends on hate crimes for colleges and universities, but data was not available about those statistics for OU. The study said that of 27,500 criminal incidents nationally on campuses in 2015, 860 were hate crimes, and the most common motive for those hate crimes was race.


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