The University of Arizona has just released its Annual Security and Fire Safety Report for 2020. The report, among other things, compares crime statistics on campus from 2017 through 2019. The report is required under federal law, specifically the Clery Act.

We think the information on crime contained in the report is interesting on a couple of levels. First, it contains a rundown of various crimes across the three-year period ending last year. The conclusion is that the crime rate at U of A is down, although certain categories of crimes – specifically sexual assault and domestic violence – are up. The university administration is naturally pleased that crime is down on campus; on the other hand, their explanations for the apparent spike in sexual assault and domestic violence do not appear to be either logical or helpful in reducing crime.

Underreported Crimes

The increase in rapes on the main campus of the University of Arizona was substantial. The number went from 22 in 2017, to 14 in 2018, and spiked to 40 in 2019. When asked about the increase, the U of A police chief is quoted as making a statement which we find somewhat confusing. He said that for years, they have always said that sexual assault is underreported on the campus. We are not sure, however, what that means for the statistical spike in reported rapes.

The statement that rapes are underreported has, of course, a logical appeal. Women may be loath to report a sex crime to a (usually male) police officer, who may be completely ill-equipped to deal appropriately with the situation. On the other hand, how do we measure the level of underreported crimes? And how does that issue explain a 185% rise in reported rapes over a one-year period?

But the chief was not alone in his explanation which sought, in its own way, to discount the sexual assault increase on campus. The Dean of Students told one reporter that the student population had increased, and therefore there is “going to be an increase in the number of sexual assaults and other crimes that happen on campus.” Well, maybe that is logical, although we assume the population of the main campus of U of A did not increase by 185% in 2019. This statement also does not explain how, during a supposed period of population growth, the overall crime rate at the school actually decreased.

What we have, we believe, are statements which downplay a relatively huge increase in reported rapes, and close to a 100% increase in reported domestic violence incidents. One theory blames it on lack of prior reporting, the other on increased population. Under either theory, it is not the school, its administrators, police, safety measures, etc., that are responsible. Both theories also, at least theoretically, would justify a do-nothing stance on the part of the school.

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