University issues annual crime report, reminds community of safety resources
Report reflects 2019 statistics and, per federal law, reports of decades-old crimes related to the investigation of sexual abuse by Richard Strauss
The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University released today its Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports, showing an increase in present-day crime reporting on or near the Columbus campus. Today’s release, which includes statistics from Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2019, complies with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
The report comes after Ohio State’s Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force released its recommendations to improve communication, engagement and support of residents on campus and in the near-campus neighborhoods.
“Safety remains our top priority and we are committed to protecting all members of our campus community,” said Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt of The Ohio State University Police Division (OSUPD). “We encourage Buckeyes to report known crimes and to utilize the many safety resources available on Ohio State’s campuses.”
The Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force identified tactics that can help minimize crime and high-risk activities and behaviors while also cultivating community well-being. Three key themes were identified: safety awareness and education, enhanced security measures and outreach and engagement. A detailed account of specific recommendations is available on the Task Force website.
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 made public by Ohio State in May 2019. 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 27 separate lawsuits filed against the university related to Strauss.
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. Due to COVID-19, the Department of Education did not open the Campus Safety and Security Survey for universities to submit their data until Nov. 18, and extended every institution’s deadline for issuing the 2020 Annual Security and Annual Fire Safety reports to Dec. 31, 2020.
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.
2019 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.
Rape reports increased from 93 in 2018 to 118 in 2019 in instances unrelated to Strauss, while instances of fondling decreased from 48 to 43. Ohio State continues its ongoing focus on educating faculty, staff and students on reporting incidents of sexual misconduct.
These efforts are credited with reports of stalking, dating violence and domestic violence all increasing in 2019. Stalking increased from 57 to 91 and dating violence increased from 35 to 64.
Education remains a focus for the university. 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 university saw a significant increase in reports of aggravated assaults while burglary reports decreased in 2019. Aggravated assaults unrelated to Strauss increased from 7 to 22, including five drugging reports that led to a Neighborhood Safety Notice in February 2019. Burglaries decreased from 95 to 71 after a sharp increase the prior year. Burglaries from residence hall suites that involve thefts from multiple rooms count as separate incidents.
Hate crimes increased from 3 to 12. There were no identifiable trends, but officials believe this is a return toward the median based on data from previous years.
The 2020 Annual Security Report also includes crime tables for all Ohio State regional campuses.
The university continues to educate incoming students about safety and offer support resources in a community-wide approach to combat sexual misconduct through action, counseling and support and training.
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.
Ohio State also continues to conduct campus climate surveys that catalog attitudes and experiences related to sexual misconduct, most recently in spring 2019.
The university’s Surviving an Active Aggressor video is required viewing on the new student orientation checklist. Ohio State also launched a new ridesharing initiative prior to the 2019 autumn semester called Lyft Ride Smart at Ohio State. The program offers students discounted rides, on or near campus, between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Additional safety resources and information are available through the university’s Department of Public Safety and Office of Student Life. In addition, a detailed account of specific recommendations from the Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being are available on the Task Force website.
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 2018 or 2019 of acts committed by Strauss in the specified locations during his 20-year employment as a physician at Ohio State, from 1978 to 1998, whether in the Perkins Coie Report, the 27 federal lawsuits that were filed related to Strauss or to the university directly, are included in the statistics.
- 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. Perkins Coie provided the majority of Strauss-related data for Ohio State’s 2019 and 2020 Annual Security Reports, in addition to the 27 federal lawsuits.
The Strauss-related, Columbus-campus data includes incidents reported in 2018 and 2019. An additional 1,209 instances of fondling and 97 instances of rape attributable to Strauss have been identified in 2019 — bringing the total to date to 2,201 instances of fondling and 127 instances of rape attributable to Strauss. Rape, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education, includes digital and oral penetration.
The 2018 statistics showed 992 instances of fondling and 30 incidents of rape attributable to Strauss. In an effort to be transparent, last year’s Clery announcement indicated that an additional 437 instances of fondling and 17 instances of rape attributable to Strauss had been identified by the time the Annual Security Report published in 2019. Because these incidents were reported in 2019, they were not reflected in the 2018 data but were shared separately in an effort to keep the campus informed. Since that time, 772 additional reports of fondling and 80 incidents of rape were reported between Sept. 30, 2019 and Dec. 31, 2019. Those are reflected in the current 2019 data. There is one aggravated assault related to Strauss which was reported as a drugging.
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 in order 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 20 years since Strauss left the university. Details on programs and initiatives are on the university’s Strauss investigation website.