Annual campus report shows increase in crime

The recently released crime report for South Plains College shows an increase of sexual misconduct, drug and alcohol violations and aggravated assault on campus.

Passed in 1990, the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act is an annual report that by law requires all colleges and universities that receive federal funding to share information about certain crimes which occur on and around campus.

SPC recently released the report for the calendar year of 2016.

The report showed a decline in burglaries and referrals for drug abuse violations, along with an increase in rape cases, aggravated assault, cases of dating violence and stalking, and arrests for weapons, and liquor law violations.

“It is just a matter of what the population brings with them,” said Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president of student affairs at SPC. “I can’t control what they are doing. All we can do is take care of business as it comes up.”

According to Dr. DeMerritt, the number of referrals to the Dean’s Office given in 2016 has been the most that SPC have ever had before.

Most referrals come from SPC’s new Health and Safety inspection. Students who live on campus have weekly room checks. If a student is suspected of having drugs or alcohol, Housing will issue a health and safety inspection. For the year of 2016, SPC gave 31 referrals and 15 arrests for liquor law violations, which is an increase from 19 referrals and no arrests during the 2015 calendar year.

“What we are doing is, for those that we suspect are using drugs or alcohol, if we suspect they are using drugs, we automatically refer them to Health and Wellness for some counseling sessions on drug awareness,” said Dr. DeMerritt.
Dr. DeMerritt said he believes that staying proactive with students can help lower the number of referrals and make a change in students’ lives.

“We are trying to make a difference in their lives,” expressed Dr. DeMerritt. “To say, ‘Hey, you really need to think about the direction you are going with this.”

Along with counseling, SPC students are encouraged to attend any of the many drug and alcohol education events hosted on campus throughout the year.

According to Dr. DeMerritt, campuses with residential life tend to have higher crime stats than those without.

Dr. DeMerritt says that another reason for such a high number of referrals is due to the change in administration throughout the year of 2016.

“I don’t know whether they knew that [a dean] wasn’t here, so they could maybe get away with more,” said Dr. DeMerritt. “Now that there is a sheriff in town that is patrolling [the situation], they can’t get away with it.”

During the year of 2016, one rape case was reported at SPC, according to the report.

Rape cases are handled through Title IX regulations. As the Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. DeMerritt is the Title IX coordinator and organizes Title IX investigations for the campus.

“[When a rape case] gets reported to us, it gets reported to the police, and then we have to a full investigation,” said Dr. DeMerritt.

Currently, Title IX states that, “no person in the United States shall, on behalf of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Throughout the year, SPC’s Health and Wellness Center focuses on increasing awareness and educating about prevention and intervention. Before the 2016 academic year, residence hall directors and wing advisors attended training on how to handle reports of sexual assault, IPV, stalking and sexual harassment. At the beginning of fall 2016, students living on campus were required to attend a residence hall meeting providing information on consent, sexual misconduct, domestic violence and stalking.

“I think we all know what the right thing to do is,” said Dr. DeMerritt. “The right thing to do is to make sure we are all having access to the resources that the accused and the victim have, and that they can get what they need and that we are taking charge of what happened there and making sure we are making the best judgment on behalf of the student(s) involved and the college at the same time.”

The annual Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistic Report also mentions the fire safety systems for SPC student housing.

Due to how old some student housing buildings on the Levelland campus are, nine out of 11 do not have sprinkler systems.

“Some of [our dorms] are such old buildings that they are primary brick buildings,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “Brick walls and concrete ceilings; there’s not anything to burn.”

Dr. DeMerritt said he believes that with SPC’s housing rules and regulations, it could be hard to cause a fire. Also, the local Fire Marshall conducts inspections often.

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