October 1, 2010

Crime report: Drug Use on the Rebound at Iowa Universities

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The overall number of violent crimes and thefts at the University of Iowa is down, but another old scourge appears to be making a comeback – illegal drug use.

A new crime report to be released today by the University of Iowa revealed that drug abuse violations have shot up by almost 40 percent since 2007 to 229 arrests and non-arrest drug violations.  The non-arrests were disciplinary complaints that were brought against students who violated drug laws, according to the report.

At the same time, the crime category that includes robberies, assaults, sex offenses, burglaries, and others fell to 47 cases, a decline of 37 percent. Even the drinking problems may be easing a bit. Arrests and disciplinary actions for liquor law violations dropped 8 percent last year compared to the previous year.

Overall, despite rising drug abuse and the continuing the drinking problem, crime on University property and its immediate surroundings dropped 5.6 percent from 2008.

The new statistics are in a document mandated by the federal Clery Act, which requires every school that receives federal aid to post its crime statistics annually.

David A. Visin, the associate director of the University’s Department of Public Safety, said he did not know why there was an increase in drug violations.

Other Regents universities have experienced similar trends.  Drug violations rose 50 percent at Iowa State University to 72 cases from 2007 to 2009, and they nearly doubled to 69 at the University of Northern Iowa, according to those institutions’ Clery reports.

“We have seen an increase in marijuana usage,” said Dave Zarifis, the University of Northern Iowa’s director of public safety.  “At least that has been the case at UNI and Blackhawk County.”

He said the growth of drug usage, especially marijuana, has led to more complaints and more university policing.

Iowa State University did not return numerous phone calls.

In addition to increased drug violations, the Clery reports also indicate these universities have all had an increase in reported forcible sex offenses since 2007, with Iowa State University apparently having the worst problem. ISU, which has 28,000 students, reported 20 forcible sexual assaults – a four-fold increase over 2007 and more than twice the number reported by University of Iowa, which has a student population of about 30,000.

But the Rape Victim Advocacy Program of Iowa City estimates the numbers are much higher. In Iowa City, the program reported that 60 of 279 rape cases it dealt with were students.

“The Clery Act only shows the tip of the iceberg,” said Karla Miller, the director.

Miller said the gap between the number of sexual assault cases listed in the Clery report and the cases in the program’s report are caused by victims [who] don’t want to deal with police.

The University of Iowa does not report the advocacy program’s statistics because they are not specific enough, Visin said.

“We need to know if it was inside the building, outside the building, which side of the sidewalk, etc., he said.  “We will always take 3rd party reports from RVAP [Rape Victims Advocacy Program] if they give us one.” The web site that contains the University’s Clery statistics provides the advocacy program’s phone number where people can obtain additional statistics.

Though the Clery report may not be completely accurate, it requires 65,000 schools to make their crime statistics available to the public. The Clery Act is named in memory of Jeanne Ann Clery, a freshman who was raped and murdered while asleep in her residence hall room on April 5, 1986, at Lehigh University. Her parents, Connie and Howard, discovered that students hadn’t been told about 38 violent crimes on their daughter’s campus in the three years before her murder. They joined with other campus crime victims and persuaded Congress to enact this law, which was originally known as the “Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990.”

 

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