How Does Denison Measure Up on Crime?

By Maggie Miller

Living on a college campus, like the Hill, has its perks and downfalls. As a Denison student, I don’t have to wake up earlier in the morning to get in my car or take any public transportation, I walk my 10 minutes from East Quad and I am suddenly at school. We have all heard this described as living in a bubble. Eat, breath, sleep, and learn on the same 1-mile radius is for sure a bubble-like experience. This bubble sometimes implies a level of increased protection against crime. How do we check if this is true?

In 2008, as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the Federal Government realized Colleges across the country, like Denison, had tons of students living on their campuses and no responsibility in tracking crime that happens there. As a solution, all colleges in the United States who have on-campus housing must compile fire and safety data and report it to the federal government in a standardized report. As Denison students, do the mandated bits of data that Denison collects mean anything to us living on the Hill?

I asked myself this question as I read the email with the subject line, “2018 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report” back in October. I had no idea what it would mean to open this report, but curious me clicked the blue link anyway to read the “Clery Crime Statistics” (named after Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her dorm in 1986). Looking at it, I could not believe the crime levels reported and how little I was aware of them. I wondered how many students looked at these statistics and were aware that this bubble might not be one after all.

In order to get some perspective on Denison’s crime stats, I started googling other schools. I ended up with reports on DePauw, Kenyon, Oberlin, and Wittenberg. If I was going to compare Denison, I had to put it up against schools of similar build. It also helps that these schools have similar proportions of students living on campus: Denison is at 99%, DePauw at 96%, Kenyon at 100%, Oberlin at 93% and Wittenberg at 85%. How does Denison compare to colleges of a similar nature?

The graph below shows the schools organized by the offense. The number is the amount that crime was reported in 2016 in the college’s Clery Report. The results suggest Denison is doing well in terms of their crime statistics. This may sound weird, but we are tied with Kenyon in terms of stalking, and all three other schools have higher rates. Denison has the second lowest number of rapes — Wittenberg has the lowest and DePauw, Kenyon, and Oberlin report much higher numbers. Denison is in the company of Kenyon, Oberlin, and Wittenberg in terms of Liquor Law violations, while DePauw has a much higher rate. Drug Law Arrests are interesting as DePauw once again has higher statistics and Denison and Wittenberg tie for second lowest with one incident. Denison has the fewest burglaries and is the only one with zero, though lots of lost things. Only in terms of Arson does Denison have the highest prevalence. Why?

We can theorize on the patterns and reasons these statistics are what they are. It seems the main offenses that spark conversation are Rape, Liquor, and Drug Law Arrests, and, oddly, Arson. Statistics for Rape show Denison right behind Wittenberg on the lower end, especially compared to DePauw, Kenyon, and Oberlin. Is it that Denison has a better campus culture of respect, or is it that these other schools have higher reporting rates? We know from previous research by Elena Meth that about 1 in 5 (23%) of women at Denison have been sexually assaulted or harassed on campus, which is spot on the national average. So, it is possible that Denison might, unfortunately, have a problem in terms of reporting.

Liquor and Drug Law Arrests are interesting as these stats point more to DePauw being unique amongst the four other schools. Why is it that DePauw reports 36 and 20 Liquor and Drug Law Arrests for 2016 and Denison has 3 and 1, respectively? This reflects positively on Denison’s campus and the student body being courteous to our neighboring Granville town. What this likely also illustrates is that Denison does a lot to protect their students and instead of allowing them to get arrested, deals with violations internally.

It honestly is really peculiar that out of these 6 crimes, the one Denison scored highest in was Arson. This could possibly be a situation of 2016, it could even be the same person. It is incredibly strange that while 3 of the 5 schools report 0 Arsons and DePauw reports one, Denison is reporting 3. It is possible that this does not reflect on the campus, but is instead a definitional issue. One of the known situations to happen in dorms is that students who smoke will place plastic bags over their smoke detectors to prevent the alarm from going off. If this counts as an Arson offense maybe this is the reason Denison is reporting this as a repeated crime in 2016.

The goal of this post was to start a conversation. When I saw the Clery report I thought it was not as public or explanatory as it should be. Denison measures up to these four similar colleges in pretty great condition. Denison is reporting lower crime rates for a majority of crimes when compared to similar schools, but at the same time, the conversation cannot stop there. Denisonians need to be asking questions about why our crime statistics measure up to these colleges in the way they do, theorizing things Denison needs to fix, wondering whether we have a culture of full reporting. In short, it’s worth investigating whether Denison in fact is a model for other schools, so we can truly know if Denison is measuring up as a safe, protective and positive environment for students.

Maggie or M&M is 5’5” with a big personality and is pretty awesome for someone who still doesn’t know how to drive as a junior in college.

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