Wrote the Bee on February 16, 2007:
“No one is saying UC Davis has more crime. Experts say other schools probably have similar numbers but aren’t doing as good a job with outreach programs and counseling services to make victims feel comfortable about reporting rape and other sexual assaults.”
The article continued:
Daniel Carter, vice president of the national watchdog organization Security on Campus, said UC Davis deserves credit for addressing a problem that affects most college campuses equally.
“Ones that acknowledge and deal with it are safer than ones that don’t,” said Carter . His organization called for an investigation into how UC Davis and other UC schools compiled their sex-crime data in the late 1990s for a federally mandated crime survey.
UC Davis since has broadened the way it counts sexual assaults on and near campus. They now include reports made not just to police but to counselors, dorm staff and other school officials. In 2003, a state audit suggested the school was even casting too wide a net.
For 2005, the most recent crime data available, UC Davis reported 50 sexual offenses on or near the Davis campus and its Sacramento medical center — three times greater than other UC schools.
Jennifer Beeman, who heads the sexual-assault prevention program at UC Davis, said at first glance, the statistics make the campus look like “the rape capital of the world.”
“What that tells me is those students on those (other) campuses don’t know where to go for help,” she said. “If people know where to go, your numbers are going to go up. We just have more people who come forward and more people who get help.”
We now know that Ms. Beeman was in fact fudging crime statistics. No one has asked her why. It is clear from another release on Thursday that Ms. Beeman was a troubled individual. According to a release from University, the former UC Davis employee who directed the UC Davis Campus Violence Prevention Program for 16 years was placed on administrative leave with pay on Dec. 11, 2008, in connection with allegations that she improperly charged travel expenses to a federal grant.
At some point shortly after Dec. 11, 2008, UC Davis changed Beeman’s leave from administrative leave to medical leave, and made that retroactive to Dec. 11. She remained on medical leave until June 9, 2009, her last day of employment.
But from our standpoint, the official explanation always seemed like spin. Experts quickly argued that UC Davis had no higher crime rate than others, it was merely that they had better outreach. But over a three year period, that explanation should have seemed a bit suspicious.
According to the university’s internal review and independent, outside review, UC Davis reported 48, 68 and 69 forcible sex offenses in 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively. However, based on the two recent reviews, UC Davis has determined that the correct statistics for each of the years are less than half those numbers: 21 reported in 2005, 23 in 2006 and 33 in 2007.
How does this happen? Should those statistics have been a red flag to the university that something was amiss? After all the stats were used to tout the Campus Violence Prevention Program.
The Chief quickly counterspun. Said UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza:
“UC Davis has always been a safe college campus, and our Campus Violence Prevention Program has always been a tremendous asset to victims of violent crime. Today’s announcement about the Clery Act statistics doesn’t change any of that.”
And blame was quickly placed on a single individual. Said Robert Loessberg-Zahl, assistant executive vice chancellor:
“The problem with the reporting of these statistics was an isolated incident related solely to one individual. We believe we’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure the long-term integrity of the Campus Violence Prevention Program and the long-term integrity of its Clery Act statistics.”
One individual, no one was in charge of verifying the crime statistics when they came in overly high?
It turns out that was a mistake as the University acknowledges.
“UC Davis acknowledges that it erred by relying on a single person — the director of the Campus Violence Prevention Program — to both review the program’s caseload and to report its Clery statistics. UC Davis did not require that a second person review the program’s caseload because of the former director’s concern about compliance with privacy laws, which require that clients’ identities be held in confidence.
To ensure the future integrity of the Campus Violence Prevention Program and its contributions to Clery statistics, a newly created panel of campus experts will review all crime statistics reported by the program. That panel will include a uniformed command officer from the UC Davis Police Department, a Clery Act specialist from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and an attorney from the Office of Campus Counsel. The review will be conducted using case information from the program’s files that have been edited to remove clients’ identities.”
More concerning is that the numbers themselves never seemed to trigger any sort of suspicion. They just sort of accepted them. The problem came forward only when a staff member began compiling Clery statistics for the 2008 calendar year and noticed a discrepency between the verified total and the reported total.
UC Davis first became aware of a possible problem with the program’s reporting of its caseload of forcible sex offenses in April 2009, when a staff member there began compiling Clery statistics for the 2008 calendar year. The staffer was able to verify a total of 17 forcible sex offenses — significantly fewer than the 57 cases that the program reported in 2007 and the 52 cases it reported in 2006.
When the staff member alerted UC Davis Police to those concerns, the department launched its own review of the program’s case files for 2005, 2006 and 2007. The internal review was able to validate only 10 forcible sex offenses reported exclusively to the program in 2005, only 4 in 2006 and only 16 in 2007. In addition, the police department review could not find in the program’s files the remaining cases reported by the then-director in 2005, 2006 and 2007 as being subject to Clery Act reporting requirements.
When UC Davis police reported their findings to campus administrators, the UC Davis Office of Campus Counsel commissioned an external review of the violence prevention program’s statistics. UC Davis tapped Dolores Stafford, the police chief of George Washington University and a nationally respected expert on the Clery Act, to conduct the review. Review of the 2006 and 2007 statistics was viewed as most critical, because statistics for those years, as well as 2008, are required to be included in the 2009 report.
No one ever questioned the fact that UC Davis had for a three year period twice the reported rape statistics of the other UC’s, despite a number of factors that should have led them to question the statistics.
—David M. Greenwald reporting