Crime numbers for the last year have just been released — some have skyrocketed and others have plummeted, but looking solely at the numbers can be misleading.
Campus security released its annually updated security and fire safety reports Sept. 28, complete with public crime statistics.
Stalking and burglary offenses have slightly increased, drug violations have decreased and many crimes are listed as having zero offenses, but all takeaways may not be immediately clear from simply skimming over the numbers.
Certain statistics may jump out; assault offenses, for instance, have halved since 2016, while drug-related arrests have gone from zero to 15 in a single year. However, chief of campus security Pat Cunningham said neither of these figures tell the whole story.
“Most of our marijuana cases involve possession of 1 to 3 grams of marijuana. Less than a gram will result in a referral. More than a gram results in a prosecution,” Cunningham said. “There was never a situation where we went through a room search and found a felony amount of marijuana.”
While drug-related arrests have technically gone up, the total number of drug offenses has decreased from 46 to 27, and there has only been a single case where enough marijuana was found to constitute more than a misdemeanor in Tennessee.
Campus security does not consider 27 drug violations “OK,” but Cunningham does not consider the number a “spike,” he said.
“I think it’s a very big issue and I think we want to continue to be diligent in it,” said Cunningham. “That said, I think it’s encouraging that what we’ve seen is when we’ve had it, it’s in small amounts, it’s infrequent.”
The change in assault offenses may also present an incomplete image — assault offenses, as reported by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, include a variety of offenses, including aggravated assault, stalking and intimidation.
The Clery Crime Statistics report separates some of these offenses into their own categories, showing that aggravated assault reports have stayed the same while stalking reports have increased.
The increase in stalking reports is likely because of students’ increased social media presence, Cunningham said.
The Clery Crime Statistics report also showcases a weapons law violation in 2018, but the weapon was a lone firearm in a non-residential area that did not belong to a student or faculty member, Cunningham said.
He also said that campus security analyzes trends over a wider span of time than the annual report displays.
“You’ve really got to look at trends over time,” said Cunningham. “It can be a little misleading sometimes … if you go back and you look at the last 10 years, you can see it’s really within that expected range.”
TBI crime statistics for Belmont University spanning back to 2004 are publicly available to view here.
The annual report’s main function is to help students stay safe, Cunningham said.
“The crime stats are important, but the real message is be informed so you can make decisions about what you need to do to keep yourself safe.”
This article written by Justin Wagner.