DOE unveils online campus crime database


Users encounter problems trying to access, use site





WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Education launched a new database in October that it trumpeted as allowing students to access crime information from more than 6,000 schools via the Internet.   But the site has been plagued by problems since its unveiling. Several universities that submitted their crime statistics for posting have filed complaints alleging that the data displayed is incorrect, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education report, and many people trying to access the site have been unable to because of problems with the Web server.   Furthermore, 325 of the 6,700 colleges across the country failed to submit their crime statistics by the federally mandated deadline. As the Report went to press, about 180 schools still had not submitted their reports to the department, according to Dan Madzelan, the DOE official responsible for the data collection.   To compile the first-of-its-kind database, the Education Department requires colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs to submit their annual campus crime statistics electronically to the DOE.   Madzelan said any school that does not submit its campus crime statistics could be suspended from student aid programs, allowed only limited participation in the programs or fined up to $25,000. But he added that the department's first priority is to work with schools that are in noncompliance before going to the enforcement stage.   Department officials also said they are willing to work with any college that believes its crime statistics have been misreported to correct the problem.   Daniel Carter, vice president for the national watchdog organization Security on Campus, called the new database a starting-off point for people researching the safety of the nation's schools.

"It shows that crime does happen on campus and that [parents and students] must take precautions," Carter said. "It can also serve as a gauge between two different schools."   Carter said he hopes that eventually all schools will report campus crimes honestly and forthrightly. He said schools might feel pressure to do a better job of combating crime on campus if they know it will be a factor in prospective students' college decisions.

"[Schools] will then more appropriately and adequately respond to crime, and in the end, crime will go down because of that," Carter said.   Since 1991, colleges and universities have been required by a federal law, commonly known as the Clery Act, to keep statistics on the numbers of certain categories of crimes that occur on their campuses each year and make those numbers publicly available.


The DOE's crime statistics database is available online at: http://www.ope.ed.gov/security


reports, Winter 2000-01