The recently released annual campus security report shows a higher percentage of crime, but Tyler Junior College Campus Safety attributes the rise to an increase in staff and diligence.
The report reveals in both 2009 and 2010 that crime, specifically burglary as well as others, has shot up significantly, which begs the question whether or not crime truly is growing.
According to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act report—a nationally recognized system that all state colleges must follow—a school must collect and publish specific accounts of crime on campus. They are then sorted into categories for past-year comparisons.
Chief Randy Melton, Director of Campus Safety for 14 years, said the department was given until October of the following year to file the report. He also said that while the reports gives an account of crime, it is merely a snapshot of what happens on campus.
According to Damien Williams, director of Student Support Services, the higher statistics are accredited to their ability to hire more staff and ambassadors to patrol the campus who are doing a better job of reporting.
“When you have more guys out and about campus, you’re going to catch more [offenses],” he said.
Although many students do not know about the report, Vincent Nguyen, director of Sstudent Success, feels that parents and prospective students should consider the report before choosing any school, but with caution.
“That’s a tell-tale sign to see if the campus is going to be safe or not,” said Nguyen. “But it’s very important that they look carefully because percentages are not necessarily accurate. It doesn’t tell the whole story.”
Though Campus Safety considers the report accurate, some issues that could be seen as errors were discovered. Two instances, the Amanda Anderson murder in 2010 and the gang violence on campus in 2009, were not reflected in the reports.
Chief Melton said that while Amanda Anderson was a TJC student, her murder did not involve any other aspects of TJC, including location or other students. In order to be considered an off-campus criminal homicide, the offense must be at a popular meeting place for students not on campus and should involve other TJC students.
As for the gang violence, most of the offenses were only disturbances or non-student trespassers. While they were recorded, they were not considered criminal offenses and therefore are not on the Clery report.
Both Melton and Williams feel that while the report statistics are up, TJC is still a safe campus and that the staff is doing their job well. They are confident that the statistics do not reflect the progress of the school.
“We’ve made great strides with our Campus Safety department on getting new officers, new staff members,” said Nguyen. “We are so much more advanced than we were even two years ago or as much as even one year ago.”