By Rachael Gerron
Web Content Assistant Manager
Texas State University students feel unsafe on the San Marcos campus after the University Police Department’s (UPD) 2020 Clery report revealed that crime rates have gone up significantly since 2017.
The Clery Act is a federal law designed to ensure that universities are fostering campus safety. Some crimes listed under the Clery Act include rape, burglary and aggravated assault. The act requires universities to properly report these crime statistics for the last three years and provide timely warnings about crimes reported to UPD.
According to UPD’s 2020 report done on the San Marcos campus, crime rates increased significantly in almost every offense under the Clery Act. Texas State’s Clery Compliance Coordinator, Kistina Morales, attributed this increase in crime rates to better documentation than the years prior.
“When I jumped on board, one of the most critical initiatives that we developed was the Clery Act Data integrity Sub-Committee,” said Morales. “And so that’s that [ the] sub-committee was developed with the sole purpose of ensuring we provide accurate statistical disclosures to the campus community as we move forward.”
This sub-committee is composed of representatives from UPD, the Department of Housing and Residential Life and student involvement. These departments review cases daily to make sure they are properly identified as Clery crimes.
Student Morgan Hargrove, 25, lived near campus when reported sexual assaults doubled from 14 in 2018 to 28 in 2019. Hargrove recalled the fear she felt when a man committed numerous sexual assaults in San Marcos in 2019.
“For the longest time, me and my best friend wouldn’t go anywhere alone or even stay at our houses by ourselves,” said Hargrove. “I mean, the sexual assaults were happening during broad daylight. It was terrifying.”
While crimes are better reported now because of the new Clery subcommittees, there is still a general distrust among students in UPD’s ability to protect the campus from these crimes happening in the first place.
Freshman student, Reagan Chester, 18, lives in a residence hall and feels unsafe walking on campus at night and in the early morning. She said there was an instance when an older man was walking around the building she lives in, asking to get into girls’ cars. According to residents, he was still walking around after UPD came the first time. Chester said that in these situations she’s not sure if she would trust UPD to take it seriously.
“I would definitely call 911 over UPD, but I feel like they’d be able to handle the situation,” said Chester. “I just don’t feel that they would take it as primary.”
Some minority students feel that they have an added layer of vulnerability in terms of safety due to the recurrence of police brutality against people of color in America.
Med Raza, 22, is a Muslim student at Texas State and said that he generally does not trust police officers. Raza recalled an unpleasant encounter that he and his roommate had with a UPD officer after they pulled over to check his tire on campus.
“An officer came by and I said ‘I’m just checking my tire real quick,’ and he said ‘Shut your mouth. Don’t ever let me see you parking here illegally again,’” said Raza. “I’m Middle Eastern and he’s Black. We decided to do an environmental scan. There were cars parked everywhere, yet we were the only ones who were told anything.”
Students with disabilities also fear for their safety while on campus. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, people with disabilities made up 21 percent of violent victimization in the United States between 2008 and 2013.
Graduate student, John Rogers, 64, is a wheelchair user and feels that Texas State does not do enough to ensure the safety of people with disabilities. He pointed out that the wheelchair ramps on campus are not lit at night, but Bobcat Stadium is always lit up.
“If you can afford to throw all the lights on in the stadium for nothing at night, then I think you can afford to light up the ramps and provide adequate lighting all over the place for students to get around,” said Rogers.
Rogers said UPD could make campus safer for people with disabilities by installing wheelchair lifts into the Bobcat Bobbie vans. These vans are designed to give students safe transportation around campus at night but are inaccessible for those in a wheelchair.
Students such as Rogers feel that the university needs to do more to make Texas State a safe campus for all students and to prevent crimes from occurring.
UPD Sergeant Daniel Benitez said that UPD is constantly educating students and improving their department. To comply with the Clery Act, UPD is working on being more transparent with students about crimes that take place on campus.
“We try to be transparent in everything that we do — our emergency notifications are also something that we have to do for Clery,” said Benitez. “We try to make sure that accurate information is on there. We try to make sure that that information goes out to our students so they’re aware if we have an emergency somewhere that they need to know about, they will have it.”
Students can view the full 2020 Clery report on the Texas State University website.
Featured Image by Rachael Gerron