Report 2012-032 Summary - October 2012

California's Postsecondary Educational Institutions:

Some Institutions Have Not Fully Complied With Federal Crime Reporting Requirements

HIGHLIGHTS

Our audit of the 2010 crime statistics compiled and reported by six California postsecondary educational institutions (institution) highlighted the following:

  • None of the six California institutions we reviewed completely complied with all of the federal reporting requirements.
    • All six inaccurately reported crime statistics to varying degrees, with most of the errors resulting in the institutions reporting more crimes than required.
    • None of the six institutions disclosed all required campus security policies in their annual security reports-most failed to disclose policies related to emergency response and evacuation processes.
    • Several institutions did not always notify current and prospective students and employees of the availability of their annual security reports.
  • Of the 71 survey respondents out of 80 campuses surveyed, most indicated that they have practices in place to help ensure that they collect and make available accurate crime statistics.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

The federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) requires all postsecondary educational institutions (institutions) that participate in certain federal aid programs to publish annual reports disclosing their security policies and campus crime statistics. The Clery Act requires these institutions to distribute the reports to current students and employees and to notify prospective students and employees of their availability. According to the U.S. Department of Education (Education), the goal of safety and security related laws such as the Clery Act is to provide students and their families with accurate, complete, and timely information about safety on campus so that they can make informed decisions.

Our review of six California institutions found that none of the six were in complete compliance with the Clery Act's requirements. Specifically, the institutions inaccurately reported certain crime statistics, failed to disclose all required campus security policies, and did not always notify students and employees of the availability of their annual reports. By not fully complying with the Clery Act, these institutions may have inhibited the ability of students and employees to make informed decisions. The institutions may have also increased their risk of incurring federal financial penalties.

All six institutions reported inaccurate crime statistics to varying degrees for 2010, the latest year covered by their most recent annual security reports. Most of the errors we found resulted in the institutions reporting more crimes than the Clery Act required them to disclose. For instance, Laney College (Laney) reported 10 thefts from autos in its Clery Act crime statistics even though the act does not require disclosure of such crimes. In another example, the Academy of Art University (Academy) included two crimes in its statistics that took place in locations that the Clery Act does not cover. We also found several instances in which institutions misreported crimes or failed to report crimes, although these types of errors occurred less frequently.

In addition, none of the six institutions disclosed in their annual security reports all of the policies the Clery Act requires. The institutions most frequently failed to disclose policies related to their emergency response and evacuation processes. These disclosures, which federal regulations first required in the 2010 annual security reports, must explain how and when an institution will notify students and employees of dangerous situations on campus. They must also include information regarding the institution's testing of its emergency response and evacuation procedures. Both Laney and San Diego City College failed to fully disclose in their annual security reports 10 of the 11 required policies related to this topic.

Although we found that all six of the institutions we visited published their annual security reports as required, we noted problems in several institutions' processes for notifying current and prospective students and employees of the availability of these reports. One institution, Laney, failed to provide required notification to any of the specified parties. Three of the other institutions we visited did not properly notify prospective employees of the availability of their annual security reports.

We also surveyed 80 campuses throughout the State that reported no Clery Act criminal offenses for 2010 to determine if they had adequate processes in place to collect and distribute accurate crime statistics. Of the 71 survey respondents, most indicated that they have practices in place to help ensure that they collect and make available accurate crime statistics. In addition, 69 percent of respondents indicated that their institutions' Web sites included direct links to their security policies and annual crime statistics. However, 10 percent of these respondents did not indicate whether they comply with the Clery Act requirement to notify their current students and employees by e mail, publication, or any other means that their reports are available.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Institutions should do the following to ensure that they comply with the Clery Act by correctly reporting all applicable crimes and disclosing all required campus security policies:

  • Review and adhere to applicable guidance related to the Clery Act, including Education's Office of Postsecondary Education's Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook.
  • Thoroughly review the Clery Act crime statistics and security policy disclosures in their annual security reports for accuracy before publication.

Also, institutions should ensure that they properly notify both current and prospective students and employees of the availability of their annual security reports in the manner prescribed by the Clery Act.

AGENCY COMMENTS

Four of the six institutions we visited and the Chancellor's Office agreed with our findings and recommendations and the institutions indicated that they were already taking or had taken steps to correct the issues we identified. However, we needed to clarify some of the statements made by the Academy. Finally, Laney and San Bernardino Valley College disagreed with certain findings.


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