The Division of Public Safety has begun providing the public with more information about sex crimes that occur in the Penn patrol zone.
The changes were made after The Daily Pennsylvanian raised concerns that the University was withholding information it was required to disclose under federal law.
The concerns centered around entries made in DPS' daily crime log, which provides a summary of all the crimes reported in the Penn patrol zone.
DPS had a long-standing practice of not reporting sex crimes that occurred in its jurisdiction.
Instead, DPS would list such entries as confidential and give the date and time the incident was reported. It would only notify the public of the location and nature of the crime when a stranger rape or other incident that it felt endangered the wider Penn community had been reported.
About a month ago, DPS began treating sex crimes like any other crime listed in the crime log and now reports the general location of each crime as well as the specific type of crime that occurred.
According to DP Executive Editor David Lei, who praised the changes, this new policy will allow the DP to better report sex crimes and enable it and community members to notice trends and patterns in campus sex crimes.
"The DP is glad the Division of Public Safety has made this change to better inform the community of crimes around campus," he said, adding that the paper values its relationship with Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush and her staff.
DPS officials said they believed reporting sex crimes as confidential was protected under the Clery Act, the federal law which lays out crime-reporting requirements for colleges and universities.
The Clery Act contains exceptions if reporting a crime would endanger the confidentiality or safety of a victim.
DPS director of Special Services Patricia Brennan said the way Penn reports sex crimes was established before she took over seven years ago.
She also said she believed an agreement had been reached between DPS and either the Department of Education or Security on Campus, a group that advocates for greater security on college campuses, that permitted Penn to report sex crimes confidentially.
DPS does not have records of any written agreement between itself and either of these groups.
Security on Campus was unable to find records of such an agreement, and executive director Jonathan Kassa said he was "not comfortable with any arrangement like that."
Department of Education spokesmen did not respond to inquiries about the agreement as of press time.
Information on sex crimes is also available from Philadelphia Police, which reports them publicly.
Despite this, Brennan said she is worried that releasing information about sex crimes will prevent victims from coming forward.
"I run a confidential unit," she said, adding that Penn's Special Victims Unit is still not required to report a rape when a victim asks for confidential advice and counseling.
Kassa, however, said schools can still report sex crimes without endangering the privacy of victims.
In response to other concerns raised by the DP, DPS also changed the crime log it displays online and at a kiosk in its front office. That crime log now complies with the Pennsylvania Unified Crime Reporting Act.
The log now contains the approximate addresses of people arrested for crimes that occurred in the Penn patrol zone, making it less likely that people will be misidentified in press reports concerning crimes.
That information was previously held in a separate crime log that DPS had made in accordance with Pennsylvania law.
DPS officials said they merged the two logs in part because few people knew about the second crime log.
PennComm director Mitch Yanak, whose office is involved in composing the log, said he didn't know of anyone requesting to see the second crime log in the six years he's worked for DPS.Comments powered by Disqus
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