Crime reporting on campus: A review of the creation of the annual fire and safety report

Like other colleges and universities, Southern Utah University is no stranger to crime. While crime on campus is relatively uncommon, students need to be aware of the issues happening in their area.

The SUU Police Department, in cooperation with the Title IX Office, has helped combat this problem on an annual basis, by creating a yearly fire and safety report.

While the report may go unchecked in students’ email inboxes after it is released, the 84-page document details the statistics and standards for both crime and fire safety over the previous year.

SUU Police Chief Rick Brown believes that it is important for students and faculty to read through the report to better understand both what is happening on campus and how to find available resources.

“Part of that report is not just what has happened, but what are the resources available on campus,” Brown said. “So, as a faculty member, if you’re dealing with a student who has some questions, you can say ‘hey, have you tried going to the police? Have you tried going to CAPS? Have you tried going to the dean of students? Did you know there’s a tutoring office?’ There are all of these kinds of resources right here.”

According to Brown, the report is being created in an ongoing process, as when crimes are filed, they are quickly recorded in the safety report.

“It’s something that we work on all year long,” Brown said. “Every morning when I go through the reports, I flag which ones need to be counted in that data.”

The department and the Title IX office also meet once a month to review the statistics and to determine what should be counted in the report.

The report is heavily utilized by enrolling students to gauge the safety of the campus, as Brown has been asked multiple times during freshman orientation safety panels about the low crime statistics shown on the report.

“Every time we did that [the panel], there was always a couple of comments regarding that topic right there,” Brown said. “They would say, ‘we looked at this report, and we’ve seen the low crime rate around here and that’s one of the reasons we came here.’ It’s definitely a factor for a lot of parents.”

While the panel is no longer included in the freshman orientation process, parents and students will continue to read the report to inspect the crime rates on campus.

The basic aspects of the report are governed by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy & Campus Crime Statistics Act, but the contents of the report are up to the institution to decide upon. For instance, the University of Utah includes simple assault and specific residential buildings in its report, but SUU, which had eight instances of simple assault in 2021, does not.

“You have the minimum requirements, but you can put in any crime you want, as long as you include the minimum,” Brown said.

According to Brown, the key focus for creating the document is ensuring that the data is completely accurate, regardless of which crimes are included.

“Part of the challenge is that you don’t want to give out bad data, so it’s important that the information that we put out there is 100% accurate,” Brown said. “So that’s what we want to focus on in those areas.”

During 2021, the total instances of crime reported by SUU police went up from 36 instances in 2020 to 59. Granted, 29 of the recorded instances were due to liquor law violation referrals, and only one referral was in 2020.

While they were left off of the list, there were eight simple assaults, 56 medical emergencies, three instances of trespassing and 51 traffic-related instances on campus in 2021. According to the monthly reports for the year, there have been three simple assaults, 53 medical emergencies, five instances of trespassing and 66 traffic-related instances in 2022, as of Sept. 29.

However, with many of the reported crimes being alcohol-related, only five criminal offenses and no instances of violent crimes, Brown believes that SUU is still one of the safest universities in the state.

“I haven’t looked at the comparisons for a couple of years, but every time I have, in the past, we have always been on the lower end of crime rates compared to the other universities,” Brown said. “So, yes, I think that we have continued that trend of being safer that way.”

Brown also believes that part of the reason that no violent crimes have occurred on campus within the last three years is because of the campus community’s ability to respond to instances of crime quickly.

“I would account for the low crime rates on the campus community being involved and taking responsibility and making sure that everybody’s safe,” Brown said.

Another bit of advice that Brown would give to students is to emphasize respect in their daily lives, as it would further reduce the crimes that occur in Cedar City.

“If people respected each other, that would take care of sexual assault, that would take care of theft, that would take care of burglary, criminal mischief, assaults, all of that stuff can be resolved through respect,” Brown said.

The most recent report was released in late September and can be found on the SUU website.

Article and Photos by: Luke McKenzie

This article was originally published in the December 2022 edition of the University Journal. Pick up a free copy at any of the stands on the SUU campus.