-- 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
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
Daniel Carter, vice president for the national watchdog organization
, 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