‘Daily Campus’ police reports reported missing

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Police Reports Comparison.jpg
A side-by-side comparison of the changes to the SMU online police reports. The old system (left) provided a detailed explanation of the incident. The new system (right) was implemented in January. (Courtesy of smu.edu)

Readers may have noticed The Daily Campus has been missing a previously integral part of our coverage: daily crime reports that used to alert the SMU community to criminal activity and police investigations happening in residence halls, Greek houses and in other campus buildings and common areas.

The format in which the SMU Police Department is now reporting criminal activity has changed significantly. Where online reports used to include a brief, detailed description of the crime — including specifics on the act itself — SMU PD now only offers the date and estimated time of the offense and the report date, a general classification (i.e. Criminal Mischief or Fire Alarm), a location, a case number and the resulting disposition, (such as Inactive or Conduct Referral).

The Daily Campus has chosen to no longer publish crime reports because of these changes and the impracticalities these changes impose. Without any context of what the “criminal mischief” was or why a crime was said to occur, there seems no reason for the paper to use valuable, already limited space to report bare-bones crime information that gives very little information to the SMU community.

The Daily Campus’ intentions in publishing the more detailed criminal reports was to provide SMU students, faculty and staff with information on criminal activity that, in part, may have allowed a person with more information on the crime to step forward, or to prevent their own victimization. If a bike was reported missing and a student’s roommate suddenly had one matching the exact description, that roommate might come forward. If there were ever a series of laptops stolen in Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, students would know to not leave their laptop in their backpack unattended until the perpetrator was caught. Reporting only a “theft” without any details as to what was stolen doesn’t have that same effect.

SMU Chief of Police Richard Shafer explained that SMU PD “wanted to get more in line” with how information was presented in the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which requires all universities and colleges that take part in federal financial aid programs to maintain record of and publicly disclose all criminal information on and near the campus.

SMU PD is now following the most basic of Clery Act requirements — however, the Clery Act provides the format as the absolute base level of disclosure and does not disallow universities from disclosing additional information.

Shafer did not give further explanation of why the crime logs have been diminished rather than edited to fit requirements while maintaining their previous level of detail. As the Editorial Board of the independent student voice newspaper for this campus, we do not believe the new way of reporting information is adequate for keeping students informed on their community’s goings-on, and will not continue to publish police reports in their current form.

As always, we commend the SMU Office of Police and Risk Management for their timely crime alerts sent to students via email on more significant criminal activity. Shafer has also offered that we may call and ask for additional details on certain crime log entries. This is near-impossible for us to do due to time constraints, but students who may want or need more information should speak to SMU PD about the possibility of obtaining such.

Opinions expressed in each unsigned editorial represent a consensus decision of the editorial board. All other columns reflect the views of individual authors and not necessarily those of the editorial staff.

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