The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

2020 security report shows sexual assault as third most common crime for third consecutive year

4 min read

The Office of Title IX, which provides resources to sexual assault survivors at UMW, is located in Fairfax House. | Matthew Simmons, The Blue & Gray Press

by ADAM COOPER

Staff Writer

The 2020 Annual Security Report, which documents crimes reported on campus in 2019, was recently released by the UMW Police Department. The report was expected to be released in 2020 but was delayed due to COVID-19. The three most frequent crimes were liquor law violations, drug law violations and forcible rape.

Sergeant Jay Snipes of UMW PD, who has been with the university since 2000, compiles the report yearly in collaboration with other campus resources such as the Talley Center, Office of Student Conduct and Responsibility (OSCAR) and Title IX offices. 

The crime report covers crimes such as manslaughter, sexual offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, stalking, domestic violence and dating violence, as well as liquor and drug offenses on campus.

The total number of each of these types of crimes is compiled over the past three years: 2017, 2018 and 2019. While some of these categories have zero reported cases in the last three years, such as crimes in the homicides category, the top three crimes have stayed the same. 

Liquor and drug offenses, handled by OSCAR, were the most common on campus in 2019 with a combined 56 persons found responsible.

Thirty-eight persons were found responsible for liquor-related referrals in both 2018 and 2019. These numbers were significantly lower than  2017, which saw 112 persons found responsible. 

Drug related referrals stayed consistent with a total of 19 persons found responsible in 2018 and 18 persons found responsible in 2019. Again, these numbers were down significantly from 2017 in which 31 persons were found responsible for drug related referrals. The cause of the decline is unclear: according to UMW Police Chief Michael Hall, the police department has not done anything differently in enforcing these policies.

The third most common on-campus crime was forcible sexual assault with a total of 16 reported cases in the 2019 year. This is an increase from 2018, which had a total of 13 reported cases, but remains the same as 2017, which had 16 reported cases. 

While most liquor and drug related offenses are handled through OSCAR, sexual offenses can be more complex. While survivors have the option to report a sexual assault directly to UMW PD, they can also report to the Title IX office, the Talley Center or other campus resources. 

Hall, who’s been with the university since 2009, detailed how the process works once an assault has been reported. 

“Once we get the call we have 48 hours to notify the commonwealth attorney of the sexual assault,” he said. “That’s normally within hours of us getting a call. Once we get that we reach out to Title IX and bring them on board, we reach out to our partners at the commonwealth attorney, the victim witness advocates, the Talley Center, we bring all these people to the table on a need to know basis.… We want the right people at the table to ensure we’re empowering the student, that’s our number one thing at that point.”

The Title IX office plays an important role in the reporting of sexual offenses on campus as well. Sexual assaults can be reported directly to the Title IX office or UMW PD, but either way the Title IX office will be a part of the process.

Stephanie Lucas-Waverly, Title IX Coordinator, explained how the Title IX office differs in its role as opposed to UMW PD. 

“The Office of Title IX administrative process is separate from the criminal process,” said Lucas-Waverly. “Further, the Annual Security Report covers crimes that take place in a limited geographic area, whereas the Office of Title IX takes reports and provides supportive measures for incidents that take place both on and off-campus.” 

Lucas-Waverly reaches out to every survivor to provide them with information and options on how to move forward. 

“Upon receiving a report, I reach out to the student, faculty, or staff via an electronic letter, and I offer to meet and discuss the procedures, resources and supportive measures available to them regardless of their choice on whether to proceed with a formal process,” said Lucas-Waverly.

In comparison to other schools’ crime reports, UMW has more reported sexual offenses in some cases. For example, despite having over 20,000 students, Virginia Commonwealth University had only 33 combined reports across its various campuses over the last three years compared to UMW’s 45 reported cases. 

Sergeant Snipes credits this higher number to the progress UMW has made in being accessible to survivors of sexual violence. 

“If you look at other universities in Virginia, we have a higher percentage of reported sexual offenses per capita on the residential population,” said Snipes. “We see that we have more reports, that’s kind of a metric that we are doing something right.”

Hall acknowledged the possibility that some cases still may not be reported, but also noted the progress that’s been made. 

“We’re always concerned that there are more incidents taking place that are not being reported but we feel we’ve gotten ahead of the game over the last few years with our partners at the Talley Center and judicial affairs, working with the Title IX office dealing with sexual assault and awareness so that individuals feel more empowered to talk to someone.”

Hall continued, “We don’t always get things right as a whole, but I can honestly say the police department’s heart is in it … At the end of the day, everyone at UMW Public Safety cares about our students and our communities. That’s the message of the security report. We want to be transparent, we want to put the info out there.”

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