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The 2014 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, released this Wednesday, saw stagnation in terms of rape as well as substantial increases in both drug- and alcohol-related disciplinary referrals. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This year, federal mandates to release more transparent campus crime statistics have kicked in.

For the first time, the Division of Public Safety, along with university administrations across the country, were required to break down reports of sexual offenses into more specific categories such as rape, fondling and domestic violence. This is in accordance with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, a series of amendments to the original Violence Against Women Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in March 2013.

A part of the bill requires institutions of higher education to collect and publish more specific data on sexual offenses on and around campus starting July 1, 2015. This was in an effort to raise awareness for issues of violence against women. The act also aimed to help inform college students of the reality of violence against women at-large.

As soon as the bill was signed back in 2013, Penn beefed up its efforts on collecting and disseminating information on sexual assault on campus. By the 2014 Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, DPS opted to comply with the new standards one year ahead of the deadline. This year’s report, released on Wednesday in an email to students, also includes the new statistics on sexual assault, but this year marks the first time they are being mandated by the federal government.

Nine rapes were reported in 2013 and nine in 2014, with one unfounded claim in 2014. The Department of Education added unfounded claims as a new category in 2014 as mandated by its Clery Act, which requires universities to publicly report crimes. Unfounded claims are those which campus or local police determine to not have substantial evidence to be counted in the overall records.

There was a decrease in instances of fondling, from 12 in 2013 down to seven in 2014. Instances of stalking increased from zero in 2013 to 13 in 2014. This dramatic increase could be explained by the effect of transitioning to the new system of reporting mandated by VAWA and its renewal. In 2014, there was one instance of domestic violence, and one of dating violence. This was a significant decrease from 2013, in which there were seven instances of domestic violence and four of dating violence.

Also of note in this report is the substantial increase in both drug and alcohol related disciplinary referrals. These are non punitive measures taken when school administrators, employees or anyone else at Penn reports a student whom they suspect is having problems with drugs and/or alcohol. The overall total went from 217 in 2013 to 888 in 2014.

Mitchell Yanak, director of PennComm and Emergency Communications for DPS, says this increase can be explained by the ironing out of the new reporting standards, and not any sort of crackdown by the DPS itself. Since 2012, there have been no disciplinary referrals for weapons possessions, according to the reports.

Yanak also explained that the University made the decision to begin early adoption of the new procedures as both a sign of good faith in VAWA’s intentions as well as to make sure they had as many kinks ironed out as possible when it became federally mandated this year.

Penn has long been on the cutting edge of campus safety. “We are very proud to have received the Jeanne Clery Campus Safety Award in 2003, and we have continued our collaborative efforts with the Clery Center,” Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said.

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