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University issues annual crime report, overview of safety resources

Report reflects 2021 statistics and federally mandated reports of decades-old crimes related to the Richard Strauss sexual abuse investigation

The Ohio State University released today its Annual Security and Fire Safety reports. In 2021, most crime categories on or near the Columbus campus saw only modest statistical changes – going up or down slightly – but stayed far lower than the 2019 pre-COVID data.

Today’s release, which includes statistics from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2021, complies with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

“The university works hard to support a safe and inclusive environment,” said Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt of The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD). “We are committed to enhancing safety for all Buckeyes through a combination of police and non-sworn security patrols, lighting, cameras, transportation, educational resources and more.”

While the Annual Security and Fire Safety reports reflect campus statistics, including the Wexner Medical Center, the university continued to expand safety resources in nearby neighborhoods. In September 2021, President Kristina M. Johnson announced an additional $2 million a year over the next decade to enhance safety and security on and around campus, bringing the total campus public safety budget to $35 million annually.

OSUPD is actively recruiting, hiring and training additional sworn police, now with an authorized strength of 70 officers. Ohio State has also implemented all 15 recommendations from its Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being, initially launched in October 2020. New or expanded resources include:

  • Added police and security patrols in the off-campus area, including OSUPD, Columbus Division of Police (CPD) and non-sworn security known as Buckeye Block Watch.
  • More recently, in July 2022, an expansion of a joint patrol program that partners three full-time OSUPD officers with CPD to patrol the off-campus areas where many students live.
  • Installation of permanent LED lights in 20 areas of the University District in collaboration with the city of Columbus.
  • Expanded surveillance coverage in the off-campus neighborhoods through a combination of permanent and mobile camera units.
  • Installation of 63 License Plate Reader (LPR) cameras, throughout the University District and on campus, to assist in law enforcement investigations.
  • Installation of surveillance cameras at all campus parking garages, expanding on the more than 4,000 cameras already in place on the Columbus campus.
  • Expanded discounted ridesharing hours. Lyft Ride Smart at Ohio State now runs from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and offers service to the Short North area.
  • Adding the Stay Safe, Buckeyes online safety class to an online student checklist. The class covers topics such as crime prevention, crime reporting, when and how the university issues crime alerts, self-defense, mental health and more.
  • Creation and promotion beginning in March 2022 of an Off-Campus Community Crime Map.

A safety overview is available online to learn more about steps Ohio State has taken to enhance safety since late 2020.

The university’s Surviving an Active Aggressor video is required viewing on the new student orientation checklist. Additional safety resources and information are available through the university’s Department of Public Safety and Office of Student Life.

Clery Act requirements

The Clery Act is a federal statute requiring institutions of higher learning that receive federal funding to publish an annual security report by Oct. 1 each year. Clery requires the inclusion of reported incidents that occurred on campus, including the Wexner Medical Center, in non-campus university buildings or property owned or controlled by Ohio State or its recognized student organizations, and on public property within, or immediately adjacent to, and accessible from campus.

In accordance with the Clery Act, colleges and universities are further required to:

  • Count incidents in the year they were reported rather than the year in which they occurred.
  • Provide statistics reflecting total incidents reported and not the total number of victims. One individual could report multiple incidents, and each of those incidents would be counted separately and then added together toward a total number.
  • Include incidents in which an individual shares that another person was the victim of a crime or that multiple people were victims. If no further details are available, a determination is made based on the characterization of the reporting party.

Because the Clery Act requires that incidents are counted in the year they were reported, rather than the year in which they occurred, the statistics also include incidents of sexual abuse by Richard Strauss. Strauss was a university-employed physician from 1978 to 1998. He died in 2005. The abuse by Strauss was the subject of an independent investigation by Perkins Coie LLP that concluded in 2019. That investigation detailed acts of sexual abuse against former students by Strauss. For this year’s security report, Perkins Coie provided the majority of Strauss-related data, which is based solely on allegations made in lawsuits filed against the university related to Strauss.

2021 reporting statistics for Columbus

The statistics include information from Ohio State’s police division and a number of other university officials designated by the Clery Act as Campus Security Authorities and local law enforcement agencies. In 2021, campus crime reports held close to the previous year, increasing or decreasing only slightly. However, data in most categories continues to be far lower than it was in the 2019 pre-COVID data:

  • Aggravated assault: Up from 9 to 11 (down from 22 in 2019)
  • Burglary: Up from 36 to 44 (down from 71 in 2019)
  • Stalking: Up from up from 57 to 68 (down from 91 in 2019)
  • Dating violence: Down from 37 to 34 (down from 64 in 2019)
  • Domestic violence: Up from 12 to 14 (down from 36 in 2019)

Motor vehicle theft saw a more significant increase, following local and national trends, up from 9 to 29. Robbery also increased from 4 to 8.

For the first time in four years, rape reports decreased — from 134 to 94 in instances unrelated to Strauss — while campus fondling incidents increased from 59 to 79.

“We attribute most of the decrease in rape statistics to the good and thorough work of the Office of Institutional Equity in identifying additional methods for pinpointing the location of reported crimes,” said Christa Hribar, assistant compliance director and Clery Act coordinator for Ohio State. “Rape reports with unknown locations have decreased overall as more precise identification of location led to a decrease in Clery reportable statistics.”

Obtaining location information helps the university determine if a crime occurred within Clery Act geography and is countable for Clery Act purposes. Reports are included in campus crime stats when it cannot be determined that the crime occurred outside of Clery boundaries. Rape reports with an unknown location accounted for 55 incidents in 2020 versus only 21 this past year.

The increase in fondling reports unrelated to Strauss, from 59 to 79, could be impacted by continued education about rape, fondling and other forms of sexual assault. Education, including mandatory, annual sexual assault and sexual harassment training, remains a focus for the university. In 2016, Ohio State implemented mandatory sexual misconduct prevention education for incoming students. The university expanded this requirement in 2018 to all students, faculty and staff.

According to Ohio State’s 2019 Campus Climate survey (the latest data available), 32% of students, mirroring national results, were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to make a report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct at Ohio State, compared to 21% in 2015. Additionally, 39% of students were very or extremely knowledgeable about where to get help at Ohio State if they were a victim of sexual assault or sexual misconduct, compared to 24% in 2015.

This year’s Annual Security Report also includes crime tables for all Ohio State regional campuses.

Strauss-related statistics

The abuse by Strauss from decades ago was the subject of an independent investigation by Perkins Coie announced in 2018 by Ohio State. The findings detailed acts of sexual abuse against former students and concluded that university personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully.

In accordance with federal law, the Annual Security Report released today counts incidents in the year that they were reported rather than the year in which they occurred. As such, any reports made in 2019, 2020 or 2021 of acts committed by Richard Strauss in the specified locations during his 20-year employment as a physician at Ohio State, from 1978 to 1998, are included in the 2019, 2020 and 2021 statistics, respectively. Strauss’ abuse was the subject of a year-long, independent investigation by law firm Perkins Coie, which was commissioned by the university. The findings were released publicly in May 2019. Additionally:

  • Per federal law, statistics reflect total incidents reported rather than total number of victims. One individual could report multiple crimes or multiple occurrences of a single crime, for example, and all of those reports would be counted. As evident in the findings of Perkins Coie’s Strauss investigation, several survivors reported recurring abuse.
  • To help ensure an accurate accounting for Strauss’ abuse, all reports of incidents have been included. In some instances, former student-athletes indicated that, along with themselves, their teammates had been abused by Strauss decades ago. If no further details were available, a determination was made based on the characterization of the reporting party.
  • These determinations were made by Perkins Coie using Clery Act definitions, based on reports received during its independent investigation in addition to the complaints filed in federal court by plaintiffs alleging abuse by Richard Strauss, and from guidance sought by the university from the U.S. Department of Education. Perkins Coie provided the majority of Strauss-related data for Ohio State’s 2020, 2021 and 2022 Annual Security Reports.

Not shown in this year’s report, which requires the most recent three calendar years (2019, 2020 and 2021), is data from 2018, which included 986 instances of fondling and 30 instances of rape. The Strauss-related, Columbus-campus data includes incidents reported in 2019, 2020 and 2021. An additional 468 instances of fondling and 34 instances of rape attributable to Strauss have been identified in 2021 — bringing the total to date to 3,133 instances of fondling and 206 instances of rape attributable to Strauss. Rape, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, includes digital and oral penetration.

In 2020, Perkins Coie reviewed allegations in litigation pertaining to the Strauss matter. As a result, one count of fondling from the 2019 statistics was reclassified in last year’s report. Based on review of allegations in litigation, Perkins Coie reported 45 counts of rape in 2020, one of which came from the newly reclassified information. In 2021, Perkins Coie again reviewed allegations in the litigation documents. As a result, one count of fondling from the 2020 statistics has been reclassified. Based on review of allegations in litigation, Perkins Coie reported 34 counts of rape in 2021, one of which comes from this newly reclassified information.            

The figures in this year’s report reflect the most current data provided to the university. It is possible that the university may learn new information through various means, including but not limited to additional reports or litigation that could cause these figures to increase, decrease, or be reclassified in accordance with federal law. Should such modifications occur, the university will publish updated statistics to keep the campus community informed.

Because the Clery Act counts incidents in the year they were reported rather than the year in which they occurred, additional Strauss-related incidents could be included for the next several years.

Ohio State has implemented multiple additional safeguards in the 24 years since Strauss left the university. Details on programs and initiatives are on the university’s Strauss investigation website.

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