Fudging on Crime Statistics: No One Questioned The High Crime Statistics

universitycat.pngIn February of 2007, the Sacramento Bee ran a story on reporting of sexual assaults, lauding UC Davis which at one point in time was criticized for underreporting sexual assaults, and then was “leading the way” in the reporting of crime.

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

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 Comments

  1. Rich Rifkin

    [quote]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.[/quote]For what it’s worth, 77 reported rapes in 3 years strikes me as a shockingly high number*, forgetting the numbers that Beeman fabricated. It is my understanding that, statistically speaking, about 60 percent of actual rapes go unreported ([url]http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates[/url]); while of those reported, about 8-10 percent are inventions ([url]http://www.slate.com/id/2231012/[/url]) of the accusers. If those numbers hold up for UC Davis, then over the last 3 years, 69 of the 77 reported rapes were true, but another 104 rapes went unreported. Added together (and presuming that these generalized estimates of false accusations and unreported crimes have any bearing on the real UCD numbers), that means there were over those 3 years around 173 sexual assaults against Davis students. And to me, that is not just disturbing, but it’s a big surprise. I had no idea this problem was so large.

    *One reason I am shocked is because I regularly look at the court calendar for Yolo County. I don’t recall a single rape case going to trial over the last 6 months; and over the last few years, I can only remember a few.

  2. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]One individual, no one was in charge of verifying the crime statistics when they came in overly high?[/i]

    It’s all too easy for the public criticize UC one day for having too much bureaucracy, and then the next day ask for even more bureaucracy. This Campus Violence Prevention Program is the sort of window-dressing service that many universities spend too much money on. In truth, UC Davis has never had all that much violence to prevent.

    I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be a CVPP at all. But maybe, instead of having yet another bureaucrat to look over the shoulder of the CVPP director, the solution is less CVPP rather than more. As you say, CVPP used these inflated numbers to justify itself. (Except that you didn’t say it that way. You said “was used” and “the official explanation”, which tends to diffuse blame to the university as a whole. But the spin was CVPP’s responsibility.)

    I also do not want to promote the idea, held by many, that UC is getting more and more expensive to the state for the sake of bureaucracy. If you look at the very nice chart at the bottom of this page ([url]http://ucpay.globl.org/funding_vs_fees.php[/url]), compiled by Jeff Bergamini, it is not true. The cost of a UC education has two main components: Fees from the student and the state compact. Jeff charted these components and their sum since 1960, in constant dollars. The total cost of educating one student at UC stayed fairly constant up to about 2002. Since then, education revenue per student has fallen apart.

    But it is true that UC Davis has a lot of side activities that each perform some narrow service that someone wants, and that in bad times some of these side activities start to look like luxuries.

  3. Get Real

    This is not an isolated case.

    It is no surprise that an office whose budget depends on finding lots of sexual assaults finds such assaults under every rock.

    UC Davis offices whose role is to fight racism or homophobia find these everywhere they look.
    UC counseling services find every student in desperate need of psychological help.
    The UC writing center finds that vast numbers of students need lots of remedial writing classes.

    Why did no one question what Beeman did? Questioning Beeman would have led to charges of sexism, or worse, and nobody wants to deal with that.

  4. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]The UC writing center finds that vast numbers of students need lots of remedial writing classes.[/i]

    But this example is a criticism that doesn’t work. It is a core mission of any university to teach its students how to write. When I was an undergraduate (at Harvard), every undergraduate had to take expository writing. So the question is not whether undergraduates should have writing classes, because they generally should; the question is at what level. UC Davis uses tests to sort the students by their writing ability, so that it can put them in the classes that are right for them. It doesn’t want to throw students who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool.

    Again, if you don’t want UC Davis to teach its students how to write, what do you want it to teach?

  5. Get Real

    “Again, if you don’t want UC Davis to teach its students how to write, what do you want it to teach?”

    I want UC Davis to teach writing to those who really need it. We are not talking about an English Department here, we are talking about remedial writing. Do you really think it is te job of UC Davis to teach its students remedial writing?

    Those who learned how to write in 12 years of
    precollege education might not need extra courses in writing. But the interest of the writing center is to maximize the number of students who need to take writing courses, and the importance of those courses. Those interests sometimes, but not always, correspond to the educational needs of students.

    And to answer your question, I would like it to teach serious academic subjects at a high level. It does quite a bit of that, but it also teaches a lot of nonsense at a low level.

  6. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I had no idea this problem was so large.[/i]

    But it might well not be. As the Sacramento Bee said in 2007, CVPP used an expanded definition of rape. Well, if you expand definitions too aggressively, at some point you cross the line to wild exaggeration. In the case of CVPP, the state audit in 2003 already said that it had.

  7. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I want UC Davis to teach writing to those who really need it.[/i]

    The modern standard of college is that all undergraduates need a writing course. Even at Harvard.

    [i]We are not talking about an English Department here, we are talking about remedial writing.[/i]

    No, that’s what you’re talking about. You called it remedial. The way that UC Davis describes it is that it teaches the students what they don’t know.

    [i]I would like it to teach serious academic subjects at a high level.[/i]

    I would too. But what can it teach at a high level to students who can’t write? Either UC Davis has to first teach them how to write, or it shouldn’t admit them. I would not necessarily be against the latter, especially now that the legislature cratered the state compact. But obviously a lot of people would be against it, including the same legislature that gouged the funding.

  8. also,

    Don’t forget that UCDMC in Sac Co. is included in these statistics. I imagine that a fair number of rape reports were taken at the UCDMC ER. Also, the med center isn’t exactly in the best part of sac. It would be interesting to find out how many of the assaults occurred in the area of the Med Center.

  9. Frankly

    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.

    I think many reasonable people have suspected that these and other statistics for campus crimes against women have been inflated one way or another. In the typical hyper-PC college environment, how can anyone step forward to challenge them? In the end, it took some brave and ethical insider with access to the raw data.

    Maybe Ms. Beeman, her bosses and UCD should be have criminal and civil suits filed against them for hate crimes.

  10. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”I want UC Davis to teach writing to those who really need it. We are not talking about an English Department here*, we are talking about remedial writing.”[/i]

    I can’t speak to today’s collegians. However, when I was a graduate student at UC San Diego** 20 years ago, I was employed as a grader. I read the term papers and final exams of hundreds of undergraduates in political science and history. I was shocked and appalled by their bad writing. At least half, maybe three-fourths of my students did not know how to write complete English thoughts at the 8th grade level. I doubt one trimester of remedial writing at UC would suffice to correct 12 years of miseducation by their K-12 programs. The solution – hopefully put in place since then – is to require a facility in writing prior to matriculation.

    *I’m sorry to correct your punctuation, Get Real, but you need to replace your comma in this sentence with a semi-colon. Maybe a remedial English course would help you?

    **I did my BA at UC Santa Barbara, which I presume was even worse than UCSD. However, I never had the chance to read the papers of many Gauchos.

  11. Anon

    I find the whole discussion of remedial English needed at the college level hilarious. Some on a previous article on this blog were insisting the DJUSD does such a great job, that no remedial English is taught at UCD.

    But getting back to the subject at hand, let’s face it. Beeman was inflating crime stats for job security purposes, and to obtain as much federal grant funding as was humanly possible, forget ethics. I find it quite disingenuous for the university to innocently claim they just cannot understand why Beeman would do this. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze! I don’t necessarily fault UCD for not knowing what was going on. But I find their explanation that they have no idea why this woman did it hard to swallow. They know exactly why she did it – they just don’t want to admit it!

  12. Rich Rifkin

    [i]”Beeman was inflating crime stats for job security purposes, and to obtain as much federal grant funding as was humanly possible …”[/i]

    On its face, that seems like a logical conclusion. However, do you know for sure that her program actually received more funding because she claimed there were 185 sexual assaults when in reality 77 had been reported to the police? In other words, is federal funding tied to the number of rapes? I’m not doubting you that that is the case. I just don’t know that it is.

  13. Rich Rifkin

    By the way, if federal funding is determined by the number of reported sexual assaults, then I would doubt that there are not other “sexual-assault prevention programs” at other colleges and universities where the numbers of reported rapes are also being inflated. If you give folks a strong incentive to lie, certainly some of them will.

  14. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Some on a previous article on this blog were insisting the DJUSD does such a great job, that no remedial English is taught at UCD.[/i]

    That is a sloppy comparison, for two reasons. First, DJUSD is one of the best districts in the state. A lot of DHS graduates can aim higher than UC, or if they do go to UC, they are among the better students.

    Second, certainly there are DHS graduates with terrible writing skills. Part of the problem is that the word “remedial” is loaded; what UC called remedial is not the same as what a high school would call remedial.

    [i]But I find their explanation that they have no idea why this woman did it hard to swallow.[/i]

    The biggest reason that this explanation is hard to swallow is that UC Davis never gave this explanation. The vice chancellor said that he “can’t speculate as to motive”. That means that he doesn’t want to talk about it; it does not mean that they have no ideas.

    In fact, since Beeman is also under investigation for improper reimbursements, they clearly do have ideas about her. Sure, another way to say it is that they “don’t want to admit it”, but in the context of Beeman’s rights and a continuing investigation, what’s wrong with that?

    [i]if federal funding is determined by the number of reported sexual assaults[/i]

    It isn’t. It is determined by credibility in the grant application. It is true that it isn’t very credible to ask for money to prevent violence when there isn’t much violence to prevent. However, credibility also has other sides to it.

  15. X

    “that no remedial English is taught at UCD.”

    The comments in the previous article (including Don Shor), actually pointed out that UCD doesn’t teach remedial English. If you need it, you have to go take it at Sac City College. And that’s actually the case at many other colleges. If you don’t meet certain minimum standards for proficiency in English, you have to go to the junior or community college.

    Is there a school district you can point out where everyone graduates proficient in the national standards for English? If such a one exists, then we’d have some really meaningful discussion as to what DJUSD ought to be.

  16. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]The comments in the previous article (including Don Shor), actually pointed out that UCD doesn’t teach remedial English. If you need it, you have to go take it at Sac City College.[/i]

    But actually, that’s splitting hairs. This Sac City College writing course is taught on the UC Davis campus. Outsourcing this course is UCD’s way to telegraph that the course is remedial, without ever saying so. Explicitly calling a course remedial just saps the students’ morale. Outsourcing the course, and making it zero units, makes the point more sharply than just a name. You could even view it as a protest against California’s high schools.

  17. X

    Outsourcing is an interesting way to characterize it. It is the function of the community college system in California to serve everyone at the most basic level.

    The Davis Center of Sac City College has long run classes on the UCD campus, typically at night, especially foreign language classes. Many class rooms aren’t being used at that hour. In other Los Rios satellite centers in the Sacramento area, courses are run in high schools in the evening. Seems sensible to me.

    I wonder how many of these remedial classes are run in Davis or at UCD, anyway. The whole discussion of this makes it seem like a plague epidemic of bad writing.

  18. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I wonder how many of these remedial classes are run in Davis or at UCD, anyway.[/i]

    Actually not all that many. “Workload 57” (what a name) is only taught in the spring and it had 8 main sections = up to 200 students, total. There was also a listed capacity of 108 students for the ESL version of Workload 57. This is out of 6,000 freshmen.

    The main writing courses are UWP 1 and ENG 3, and they are much larger.

  19. Anon

    Rich and Greg Kuperberg – I would recommend you read your own arguments back to yourself three times. If you still don’t get it, try again! Try logic next time…

  20. Anon Again

    Rich and Greg, still having difficulty? Let me lay it out for you –
    1) Beeman inflated crime stats.
    Beeman’s program was federally funded.
    No crime stats, no federal funding.
    No federal funding, no job.
    2) UCD refers its incoming freshman from DJUSD to remedial English.
    Incoming freshman from UCD would not need remedial English if they
    were adequately taught at DJUSD.

    As the saying does, KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID)!

  21. X

    “2) UCD refers its incoming freshman from DJUSD to remedial English.
    Incoming freshman from UCD would not need remedial English if they
    were adequately taught at DJUSD.”

    And I personally know three DJUSD graduates who went to UCD and didn’t need remedial English; I don’t know any DJUSD graduates who required remedial English.

    This argument is total BS unless you point to something more quantitative.

  22. word to the wise

    “Rich and Greg Kuperberg – I would recommend you read your own arguments back to yourself three times. If you still don’t get it, try again! Try logic next time…”

    Try toning down the arrogance next time.

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