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University issues annual crime report, overview of safety resources

Report reflects 2020 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. Most crime categories on or near the Columbus campus showed a significant decrease in 2020, as the university adapted to hybrid or remote learning to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today’s release, which includes statistics from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2020, complies with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

“Last year was unique in that our campus population was reduced and most in-person events were canceled,” said Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt of The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD). “Our commitment to safety remains strong, and we have introduced many additional resources to enhance safety on and off campus for our students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

While the Annual Security and Fire Safety reports reflect campus statistics, the university has expanded its resources in nearby neighborhoods. Recently, Ohio State announced additional funding and safety measures. Ohio State also launched a university and community partner based Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being in October 2020, following the tragic shooting death of student Chase Meola. The university has since fully or partially implemented 13 of 15 task force recommendations, including:

  • Increased Community Crime Patrols made up of community partners. These foot patrols provide an extra set of eyes and ears in the off-campus neighborhoods where some students live.
  • Increased police patrols using a combination of OSUPD and the Columbus Division of Police (CPD) to patrol the immediate off-campus area.
  • Enhanced cultural diversity training for OSUPD, with supervisors graduating from a 6-week online leadership course from the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
  • Improved lighting in partnership with the City of Columbus, through immediate lighting repairs and a lighting survey for longer-term enhancements, as well as the addition of mobile lights along highly traveled areas.
  • Expanded surveillance coverage in the off-campus neighborhoods with the addition of four cameras in autumn 2020 and five during spring 2021.
  • Expanded discounted ridesharing hours. Lyft Ride Smart at Ohio State now runs from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. and offers most rides for around $1.
  • Added resources to the University District Organization (UDO) to develop and offer social service outreach, such as a newly announced partnership to provide a full-time, licensed independent social worker.
  • Created an online safety class covering topics such as crime prevention, crime reporting, when and how the university issues crime alerts, self-defense, mental health and more.

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, 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 investigation detailed acts of sexual abuse against former students by Strauss. Perkins Coie provided the majority of Strauss-related data for this year’s security report, which includes allegations made in lawsuits filed against the university related to Strauss.

2020 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 2020, campus crime reports decreased significantly in most categories year-over-year, including:

  • Aggravated assault: Down from 22 to nine
  • Burglary: Down from 71 to 36
  • Stalking: Down from 91 to 57
  • Dating violence: Down from 64 to 37
  • Domestic violence: Down from 36 to 12

Robbery and motor vehicle theft saw more modest decreases with robbery down from five to four, and motor vehicle theft down from 11 to nine compared to the previous year.

Rape reports increased for the third straight year, rising from 118 in 2019 to 134 in 2020 in instances unrelated to Strauss. Campus fondling also increased from 43 to 59. 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.

Reports of non-campus fondling unrelated to Strauss rose from eight to 30. The university accounts for this increase, in part, due to a rise in sexual assault reports taking place on social media. The university received multiple reports in the spring and summer of 2020 resulting from individuals reporting social media posts. Also, multiple fondling reports occurred with no discernable location, which Clery guidance states should be included in campus, non-residence hall data. These incidents partially account for the increase from 43 to 59 in campus fondling reports unrelated to Strauss.

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.

The 2021 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. Any reports made in 2018, 2019 or 2020 of acts committed by Strauss in the specified locations during his 20-year employment as a physician at Ohio State, from 1978 to 1998, are included in the statistics. Perkins Coie provided the majority of Strauss-related data for this year’s security report, which includes allegations made in lawsuits filed against the university related to Strauss. 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 and the federal lawsuits, several survivors reported recurring abuse.
  • To help ensure an accurate accounting for Strauss’ abuse, all reportable 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 and based on reports received during its independent investigation and from guidance sought by the university from the U.S. Department of Education.

The Strauss-related, Columbus-campus data includes incidents reported in 2018, 2019 and 2020. An additional 472 instances of fondling and 45 instances of rape attributable to Strauss have been identified in 2020, bringing the total to date to 2,666 instances of fondling and 172 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 received new information from the university based on litigation pertaining to the Strauss matter. As a result, six instances of fondling from the 2018 statistics and one instance of fondling from the 2019 statistics have been reclassified as instances of rape.

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 23 years since Strauss left the university. Details on programs and initiatives are on the university’s Strauss investigation website.

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