Clery Act violations bring heavy fines

A handful of U.S. colleges and universities have gained national attention in the past two years due to being cited for Clery Act violations.

Most recently, the University of Montana was fined $966,614 in October for reporting “inaccurate and misleading” crime statistics, according to Campus Safety Magazine.

Eastern New Mexico University police chief Brad Mauldin said most Clery-related violations are due to the fact that campus security does not put out what is called an annual security report. Mauldin touched on details of the report, such as how the annual security report outlines policies regarding campus safety and captures crime statistics for Clery Act based crimes.

“It has to do with lack of knowledge related to the Clery Act,” said Mauldin. “Inside of this document alone, there’s approximately 116 possible violations.”

Based on that document alone, up to $6 million dollars in fines could be accumulated due to the fact that a single fine can cost up to $55,000.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, known as the Clery Act, was signed into law in 1990 after 19-year-old college student Jeanne Clery who was killed in her campus dormitory. The act is a consumer protection law that aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics.

The act requires universities that receive federal financial aid to disclose and keep record of crime on or near their campus, so university police and security departments are required to keep a crime log of all public crimes that have been reported to them. This log is required to have the most recent 60 days of information readily available. Universities must also issue timely warnings to students or faculty that could be affected by a threat to their safety on or near the campus. Universities are also required to keep the most recent eight years of crime occurrences on record, such as rape, burglary, theft, and any crime resulting in an arrest or that could pose as a threat to the public.

Failure to report any of these crimes or incidents can result in a fine. The most frequent violations are inaccurate reports of crime statistics and failures to issue timely warnings to students/faculty about potentially threatening events, according to the North Carolina Bar Association.

“I think it is (reasonable),” Mauldin said of the law. “I look at it in terms of education and awareness to the community. The more information that you can give to the public, the better.”

“We put a lot of time and effort every year going through and drafting this document, ours (being) approximately 44 pages long of information on safety,” continued Mauldin. “It’s my job to go through and make sure that those checks and balances are in place and that this document has (met the) required criteria.”

Mauldin said the ENMU Department of Public Safety has to have a daily crime log that has to be updated within 24 hours and has to keep record of the last 60 days of offences. He said his department also has to reach out to other local police agencies to see if there were any other crimes within their jurisdiction so that they can update their crime log accordingly.

“If you were to sum it up, it all goes back to making sure that an individual is able to make informed decisions regarding their health and safety,” said Mauldin.

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