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Clery Act report shows decrease in most crimes from 2018 to 2020

There were several fires in on-Grounds housing, according to the report

<p>Individuals may also submit anonymous crime tips through two <a href=""><u>apps</u></a> — TipSubmit or Rave Guardian.&nbsp;</p>

Individuals may also submit anonymous crime tips through two apps — TipSubmit or Rave Guardian. 


The University’s annual Fire Safety and Security report was released Tuesday morning from Timothy Longo, associate vice president for safety and security and chief of police. The report revealed that almost every type of crime decreased during the three-year period from 2018 to 2020, while three fires in on-Grounds housing caused property damage.

While most reported crime statistics decreased in 2020, students, parents and community members have widely shared a sense of fear over a perceived increase in violence around Grounds observed so far in the fall semester. Nine community alerts — including five shots fired incidents — have been issued since students returned to Grounds. This year’s Clery Act report does not include crime statistics reported in 2021. 

The University Police Department announced the formation of an additional unit that will provide increased security to neighborhoods close to Grounds Monday. The Community Oriented Policing Squad — or “COPS” — will include four University Police Department officers working closely with existing University Police. The squad will work from Thursday to Saturday from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., while Wednesdays will serve as COPS’ designated meeting time with community stakeholders such as students or local business owners.

However, many students — especially students of color — express concern about the increasing presence of police officers in the spaces where they attend class, socialize and go about their daily lives. Sarandon Elliott, fourth-year College student and committee chair of the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at the University, wrote an open letter published Sept. 12 detailing UPD officers’ repeated, unwelcome attempts to contact her over recent months.

In the report’s introduction, University President Jim Ryan emphasized that safety is a community issue.

“We all have a responsibility to make U.Va. a safe place to live, work and learn,” Ryan wrote. “That means speaking up when you see a crime or someone being harmed. It also means being honest about both the progress we’ve made as a University and the areas where we still have more work to do.”

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act — or the Clery Act — is a federal statute that requires all universities receiving federal funds to disclose information about crime on campus. To comply with the act, the University releases an annual report covering crime prevention, fire safety, University Police law enforcement authority, crime reporting policies and crime statistics with data from the past three years.

According to the report, crimes must be disclosed in the report if they occur “on the University Grounds and campuses, in certain off-Grounds buildings or property owned or controlled by the University of Virginia and on public property immediately adjacent to and accessible to Grounds.”

Total reported incidents of rape haved decreased on Grounds in the past three years. In 2018, there were 28 total incidents of rape reported on or around Grounds. In 2019, that number decreased to 17, and in 2020, the number fell once again to 11. Because the report only covers incidents that were reported by victims, actual numbers could be higher — research shows that only 20 percent of female students age 18-24 report sexual violence to law enforecement.

Meghan Rapp, assistant vice president for Clery compliance and youth protection department, noted that increased reporting could be a factor in the high number of rapes in 2018. This increase in reporting could also be due to the #MeToo movement, which included prominent figures and celebrities sharing instances of sexual assault and harassment in 2017, Rapp said. 

Incidents of stalking were particularly high in 2018 and 2019 — there were 43 incidents of stalking in 2018 and 42 in 2019. In 2020, that number dropped to 13, a decrease which Rapp attributed at least in part to the University’s COVID-19 restrictions such as gathering limits.

The total number of robberies remained consistent over the three-year period. There were 3 robberies reported in 2018 and two each reported in 2019 and 2020.

Liquor law violations — including underage drinking and any other violations of state or local laws or ordinances that regulate alcoholic beverages — comprised the largest share of incidents referred for disciplinary action. There were 319 total violations on Grounds or the surrounding areas in 2020, while there were 449 and 328 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. 

Drug abuse violations referred for disciplinary action represented one of the few categories that actually increased in 2020. There were 34 violations in 2020, compared to just 13 in 2019.

Rapp explained that the large increase in these drug abuse violations may relate to Virginia’s decriminalization of marijuana in 2020.

“The increase in drug abuse violation referrals in 2020 may be related to several factors,” Rapp wrote. “In 2020, marijuana drug offenses, while still a violation of law, were reduced during the Commonwealth’s decriminalization process. Students using drugs in the University’s Clery geography may have received a disciplinary referral instead of drug arrest charge.”

In addition, there were four hate crimes in 2020, all of which occurred on Grounds. Two involved “simple assault based on race,” while the other two incidents involved “intimidation based on race” and “vandalism based on sexual orientation.”

“Community alerts” are shared with the University community when there is sufficient and timely information that can be released to the community without compromising any on-going investigations. “Timely warnings” are sent when a threat poses an “on-going threat” to the safety of the community.”

The general public may opt-in to receive emergency alerts — urgent messages which warn individuals of an imminent threat on Grounds — by texting “UVA” to 226787. 

Fire statistics reveal that there were many notable fires in on-Grounds housing over the three-year period. There were three fires in Bice House — two in 2019 and one in 2018. A mattress fire that occurred in April 2019 was the most costly incident in the report, causing between $100,000 and $249,000 of property damage.

Another fire occurred in Lambeth 456 in 2018 when an electrical panel ignited and resulted in between $10,000 and $24,999 in property damage. A third fire in Whyburn House — started by burnt food in a microwave — caused between $100 and $999 of property damage in 2019.

There were smaller fires in Gooch 383 in 2020, Kent House in 2020 and Yen House in the International Residence College in 2019. None of the fires caused more than $99 in property damage, however. No fires listed in the report resulted in any injuries or deaths.

Individuals may report crimes to the UPD in person or online. They can mail or deliver a written complaint, or report an incident online via Just Report It. Individuals may also submit anonymous crime tips through two apps — TipSubmit or Rave Guardian. 

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly reported that the general public and U.Va. community could opt-in to receive community alerts and timely warnings. In fact, community alerts and timely warnings are not sent to the general public, who instead may opt-in to receive Emergency Alerts, which warn of an imminent threat on Grounds. The article has been updated to reflect this information.