Crime at Temple Main Campus increased slightly in 2019

All categories of crime increased from 2018 except for alcohol, drug and weapons-related crimes.

A Temple University campus police office is located on Montgomery near 12th Street. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Crimes reported to Temple University’s Campus Safety Services on Main Campus rose by about 1.7 percent from 2018 to 2019, fueled by increases in reports of harassment and vandalism, according to the university’s 2020 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report released on Dec. 22, 2020. 

The report summarizes the number of crimes and fires reported to Temple on or near all of its campuses — including its international ones — in the past three years. The university is required to release this information under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, a law requiring universities that receive federal funding to release crime statistics.

Although universities are typically required to release their annual security reports by Oct. 1 every year, the United States Department of Education extended the deadline last year to Dec. 31, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Crimes reported to TUPD in 2019 often varied in nature, making it difficult to pinpoint a particular reason why the overall number of reports slightly increased, said Charles Leone, director of Campus Safety Services.

“They’re so different,” Leone said. “When we see things happening, we respond and we make changes in our deployment, but this was kind of all over the place.”

Though it is not required by federal law, the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting Act requires universities in Pennsylvania to release statistics on crimes like harassment, theft and drunkenness, Leone said. Crimes in the non-Clery Act category, which includes lower level crimes like vandalism and disorderly conduct, accounted for 798 of the 1,345 total reports Campus Safety Services received in 2019.

Reports of harassment, which falls under the non-Clery Act category, rose by 31 percent from 2018 to 2019, making it the crime with the highest increase in reports. Harassment occurs when someone repeatedly touches, talks to or follows another person with the intent of annoying or alarming them, according to Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Code.  

“Harassment comes in a lot of different forms,” Leone said. “It could be classmates harassing classmates, roommates harassing roommates. Oftentimes, harassment comes with known people.”

During the past five years, Campus Safety Services has seen reports of harassment increase because technology has become more prevalent among students, with many incidents involving people using social media and text messaging to harass others, Leone added.

Other crimes that experienced an increase in reports were the miscellaneous non-Clery Act offenses, which increased from 52 reports in 2018 to 74 reports in 2019 and includes crimes like abduction and blackmail, and vandalism, which increased from 71 reports in 2018 to 83 reports in 2019. 

The report also showed a decrease in reports of theft, which dropped from 308 reports in 2018 to 275 reports in 2019, and disorderly conduct, which fell from 33 reports in 2018 to 29 reports in 2019. 

Hate crimes

Temple reported 11 hate crimes on Main Campus in 2019, which is slightly higher than the number of hate crimes the university has reported annually since 2014. Ten of the 11 reported hate crimes were reports of intimidation, in which a victim feared they would be harmed because of bias against them, but were not physically attacked or threatened with a weapon. Additionally, eight hate crimes were committed because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity or national origin.

In contrast to Temple, Drexel University reported two hate crimes on its campus while the University of Pennsylvania and La Salle University reported no hate crimes in 2019. In 2019, there were 12 hate crimes in Philadelphia and 7,314 hate crimes nationwide, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate organization that collects data from the United States Department of Justice about hate crimes nationally.

Temple’s Campus Safety Services sometimes experiences difficulty when determining which incidents are hate crimes because it can be challenging to know if the perpetrator’s intention was to intimidate a victim because of bias against them, especially when the incident occurred in a public space without a particular target, Leone said. In these instances, Campus Safety Services “errs on the side of caution” and reports the incident as a hate crime, which may be why Temple reported more hate crimes than other local universities, he added.

“The Department of Education may say an instance maybe shouldn’t have been scored as a hate crime, and then we’d go back, change the number and repopulate the report,” Leone said. “But I’d rather have it go that way than have them ask why we didn’t put that number on there.” 

Clery Act crimes

Temple also reported 77 Clery Act crimes in 2019 — seven more than in 2018 — despite a decrease in reports of rape, fondling and burglary. The categories of Clery Act crime that increased the most in 2019 were robberies, which increased from 19 reports in 2018 to 28 reports in 2019, and aggravated assault, which increased from five reports in 2018 to 13 reports in 2019.

The uptick in robberies in 2019 is partially attributed to a string of unrelated robberies south and west of Main Campus from the end of November through the first few weeks of December, which was unusual because crime tends to decrease in December, Leone said.

To prevent robberies from increasing again in December 2020, Campus Safety Services increased its campus patrols, even though the number of people living on and near Main Campus dwindled as many students took classes remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Leone added.

“We wanted to make sure there were no vulnerabilities,” Leone said. “We certainly didn’t want to relive what happened last December. This December was much better.”

Relationship violence crimes

Additionally, Temple reported slightly more instances of relationship violence in 2019 than in 2018, which was caused by an increase in reports of dating violence. 

The slight increase in relationship violence offenses may stem from students feeling more comfortable reporting sexual misconduct, particularly because movements against sexual abuse have garnered international attention and Temple’s Title IX Office has made information about the reporting process more visible, said Andrea Seiss, the university’s Title IX coordinator.

“When there tends to be national media attention, I get more questions and we’ll talk about ways we can include what’s happening nationally in our programming,” Seiss said. “A lot of the time, I was hearing from students that they’d fear they would lose power if they reported something, or they’d be forced through a process they didn’t want to go through. So the more I could share information about what happens when a student works with me, I thought the more people would feel comfortable asking for help. And I think that has worked.”

Campus Safety Services also implemented measures aimed to make people feel more comfortable when reporting incidents of relationship violence, like having detectives undergo specialized training to be sensitive when victims share incidents with them, Leone said.

Despite the overall increase in reports of dating violence, reports of sex offenses decreased in 2019, with reports of rape decreasing from 11 reports in 2018 to five reports in 2019. This may have been caused by a variety of factors, like increased awareness about what constitutes rape and other preventative measures, Seiss said. 

“I would love the reason to be that Title IX is getting more information out there, I would love the reason to be that the K-12 system is doing more work in this area to educate students, but I’m not fully sure,” Seiss said.

Alcohol, drugs and weapons crimes

The only crime category that shrunk in the 2020 report were alcohol, drugs and weapons-related crimes, which decreased from 466 reports in 2018 to 425 reports in 2019. Temple’s reports of alcohol, drugs and weapons-related crimes peaked at 766 reports in 2014 and has declined somewhat steadily since then, The Temple News reported

“Weapons have always been pretty consistent,” Leone said. “Alcohol, if it goes down a little bit, you’ll see it ebb and flow over the years.”

Campus Safety Services has sought to provide students with more resources about recovery from substance abuse, like providing information about the drug and alcohol educational resources offered at the Wellness Resource Center and the counseling and treatment options available through Tuttleman Counseling Services beginning on page 23 of the report.

After reviewing the report, Campus Safety Services increased its awareness and communication among its officers, like having line supervisors sit in on the leadership team’s biweekly meetings so captains are not the sole figures responsible for sharing updates with other officers, Leone said.

“This fall, we were just making sure we were watching any type of little change we saw happening with crime and making sure we pushed our resources really hard out there,” Leone said. “It’s just keeping that constant awareness.”

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