Updated December 3, 2019 - 7:14 am
Nevada’s two public universities experienced significant spikes in reports of sexual, domestic and dating violence from 2017 to 2018, according to an annual report to be presented this week to the Nevada System of Higher Education’s Board of Regents.
The NSHE report includes a memorandum that highlights significant differences in crime by category year over year, and some of the most notable jumps occurred in the number of reports of rape, fondling, domestic violence, stalking and dating violence at UNLV and the University of Nevada, Reno. Statistics for Nevada’s other colleges are included in the full report, but they did not show “significant difference” from 2017 to 2018.
The crime statistics report is compiled under a federal law known as the Clery Act, which mandates that universities disclose at least three years’ worth of campus crime statistics each year and make the report available to the public.
The Clery Act is named for 19-year-old Jeanne Ann Clery, who was raped and murdered in her residence hall at Lehigh University in 1986. After her death, Clery’s parents learned that students had not been informed that 38 violent crimes had occurred on the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, campus in the preceding three years.
Officials at both UNLV and UNR said they see a positive side to the numbers, saying they show that more students feel comfortable reporting such crimes to campus police or student services offices.
“We know that an increase in the numbers looks bad, but we see it as a win for reporting,” said Todd Renwick, assistant vice president and chief of University Police Services at UNR.
Renwick oversees security at all northern NSHE institutions, including UNR, Truckee Meadows Community College, Western Nevada College and the Desert Research Institute Reno campus.
He said that in the past year, the police department received a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women to hire an in-house coordinator for sexual assault cases. This advocate can help victims file police reports and Title IX complaints as well as connect them to outside resources.
University policy is that all sexual violence cases reported to the university are disclosed under the Clery Act, whether they happened on campus or not, Renwick said. In on-campus cases, he said, it’s likely that the perpetrator is known to the victim.
“Our goal is to get more people to understand the resources they have,” Renwick said. “We’ve gone too long with people not feeling comfortable with reporting.”
Adam Garcia, director of consolidated police services for Southern Nevada institutions, including UNLV, likewise said that making victims feel more comfortable in reporting these issues and building relationships with the Title IX Office, the student conduct office and the women’s center are “having a positive impact.”
Increases in other categories also don’t necessarily reflect that a particular kind of crime is soaring. While the Clery report shows an increase in motor vehicle thefts at UNLV from 20 in 2017 to 49 in 2018, for example, the majority of such thefts involve golf carts taken for a joyride around campus, Garcia said.
Trend seen in national studies
Recent nationwide studies have reflected similar jumps in reports of on-campus sexual assaults, with one report from the National Center for Education Statistics showing a 205 percent increase from 2001 to 2014.
Another report, from the Association of American Universities, states that students were more knowledgeable in 2019 than in 2015 about how to report sexual assault and where to find resources.
The same study found that over one-quarter of all female undergraduate students reported nonconsensual sexual contact since enrolling in college, with an additional 22.8 percent of transgender, gender-noncomforming or nonbinary undergraduate students reporting the same.
Among all students, 41.8 percent reported at least one sexually harassing behavior since enrollment, the study found, with 5.8 percent reporting that they had experienced stalking.
The NSHE crime statistics report will be presented to the business, finance and facilities committee on Thursday for approval.
The Board of Regents also will vote at the meeting on a plan to create a centralized police unit to serve UNLV, CSN, Nevada State College and the Desert Research Institute campus in Las Vegas. The board approved a memorandum of understanding for the consolidation in October 2018 but indicated then that it expected to finalize the plan before the end of 2019.