By Runa Lemminn and Christopher Mateo
The Runner Staff
Students who live off campus feel CSU Bakersfield is very safe. And if they looked at the Clery Report, a federally mandated report of crimes that happen on campus, they would see a lot of zeros and still feel that this campus is very safe. However, crime happens here, a lot more than the campus reports.
Students that live in on-campus housing are some of the first to say the campus has safety issues.
Susana Garcia, a sophomore biology major who lives off campus, said she used to hesitate walking to her car at night during her first year at CSUB. She no longer does, however.
“I feel pretty safe,” said Garcia.
CSUB’s University Police Lt. Kenny Williams is the designated officer with Clery responsibilities. Williams said the CSUB Clery-reportable crime rate is extremely low, compared to some of the other campuses in California.
Williams said as far as incoming orientations, students are not made aware that there is a Clery Report.
Only a portion of the crimes that actually happen on campus make it into the Clery, because only some crimes are required to be reported. This includes major offenses, plus some minor offenses such as liquor and drug violations. For example, car break-ins are not a Clery reportable crime.
This puts the crime rate in a very misleading light.
The only realistic view of actual campus crimes is the Campus Crime Log, which is kept by UPD, and which any student or member of the general public can ask to see.
By law, an individual must be allowed to see the Crime Log when they request it.
The Crime Log is not inclusive of all crimes occurring on campus. A crime has to be reported to make it onto the log, and not all crimes, from stolen backpacks and car burglaries to sexual assaults, are reported.
Williams said incoming students are made aware of services UPD offers.
Keri Alexander, a junior majoring in sociology and minoring in criminology, said she was not made aware of services the UPD offers when she came to CSUB.
“Honestly, I don’t have a clue where to go if I was the victim of a crime. I’m a transfer student,” said Alexander.
Students living in Student Housing on campus have a very different view of the crime rate and security on CSUB’s campus, regardless of what’s happening on other campuses in California.
Alexander and Moises Luna, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, sat outside Student Housing East on the afternoon of Dec. 2.
“If you look around, there’s no officers,” said Luna. “Last year, a girl got molested here and it was by guys that didn’t live on campus or go to school here. And then they called UPD and by the time they got here, (the guys) were already gone.”
Under current Clery rules, the scenario Luna described would not show up on the CSUB Clery Report if the victim opted to receive confidential counseling instead of formally reporting the incident.
It might show up however on a different annual report issued by Title IX Coordinator Claudia Catota, if the victim decided to talk to her.
Students are largely unaware of where they can go to find crime data for CSUB.
Garcia, Alexander, and Luna were all unaware of the Clery. Luna was the only one familiar with the annual Title IX Campus Report.
“We would like to do more than [what’s required] in Clery, and send out bulletins,” said Williams.
Williams said if a significant crime occurs on campus, UPD Chief Williamson determines if the Bakersfield Police Department gets involved.
The UPD website states “The CSUB University Police Department is dedicated to ensuring the safest possible environment for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”
A vital part of ensuring a safe environment for people is to make sure the word gets out regarding options for reporting crimes, and to provide on-going training for students, faculty and staff on campus.
CSUB lists several programs for students in the Clery Report. The problem is that students are unaware of the programs.
“I know about UPD, and that’s about it,” said Luna. “There’s like no protection, especially at night there’s cars driving by really reckless what if they hit somebody?”
CSUB’s Clery report states “Doors to student housing facilities remain locked and can only be accessed with a key or Runner Card. Access to University housing is limited to residents, escorted guests, and selected staff. Entry to Student Housing is monitored on a 24-hour basis cooperatively with on-duty Residential Life personnel and police department employees.”
This has not been the experience of either Luna or Alexander, however. Both said that anyone can just walk into the housing on campus, behind them when they open the door, whether or not the individual is a student at CSUB, and it happens very often.
“There’s no protection here, there’s no security,” said Luna.
“Anyone can walk into the dorms,” said Alexander.
Luna and Alexander had suggestions for ways that security could be improved at Student Housing East. One idea was having UPD more visible around student housing, especially patrolling at regular or frequent intervals at night.
Security cameras posted in obvious locations around campus and campus housing would be very helpful. A security guard at housing would be a huge plus.
“I feel like there should always be a security guard somewhere in the dorms. There’s a lot of people that wait and don’t have a key, but no one asks them ‘Oh, do you go here, or do you have an I.D.,’ they just open the door and people just go in,” said Alexander.
While there is a yellow emergency station out in front of student housing east, Alexander said that is not going to help when a student is being victimized inside.
The university has programs in place, but students are unaware of these programs, for the most part.
Williams also said the UPD offers services to students that most people are unaware of, such as offering a jump service for dead batteries.
“We would like to do more than what’s required in Clery, and send out bulletins,” said Williams.
Some universities go so far as to list their programs for crime awareness in their Clery reports as well as what dates the training is held, what is taught, and how many people attend.
Catota said that one concern with doing that in CSUB’s Clery is that they want to keep the Clery short so that it is less intimidating. The theory is that if there are too many pages in the Clery, people will feel intimidated and not want to open it and look at it.
“We have a very good process for going through and complying with the Clery,” said Williams.
The U.S. Department of Education audits the Clery Reports.