Ohio State University’s Annual Safety and Fire Safety Report: A Detailed Overview

Ohio State University has released its Annual Safety and Fire Safety Report, providing insights into the security and well-being of its students and community members during the year 2021. This report, which includes data from January 1 to December 31, 2021, is in accordance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.

The report highlights various aspects of safety and security on and around the Columbus campus. It reflects the university’s commitment to maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all its students and staff. Chief Kimberly Spears-McNatt of The Ohio State University Police Department (OSUPD) emphasizes the university’s dedication to enhancing safety through a combination of police and non-sworn security patrols, improved lighting, security cameras, transportation services, educational resources, and more.

While the report covers campus statistics, including those of the Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State has extended its safety initiatives to nearby neighborhoods. In September 2021, President Kristina M. Johnson announced an additional annual investment of $2 million over the next decade to enhance safety and security on and around the campus, raising the total annual campus public safety budget to $35 million.

Ohio State University Police Department (OSUPD) is actively recruiting, hiring, and training more sworn police officers, with the goal of reaching a qualified force of 70 officers. The university has also implemented all 15 recommendations from its Task Force on Community Safety and Well-Being, initially launched in October 2020. Some of the newly introduced or expanded safety resources include:

  1. Additional Police and Security Patrols: Enhanced patrols in the off-campus area, including OSUPD, the Columbus Division of Police (CPD), and non-sworn security personnel known as Buckeye Block Watch.
  2. Joint Patrol Program: In July 2022, an expansion of a joint patrol program that partners three full-time OSUPD officers with CPD to patrol off-campus areas where many students reside.
  3. LED Lighting: Installation of permanent LED lights in 20 areas of the University District in collaboration with the city of Columbus.
  4. Surveillance Coverage: Expanded surveillance coverage in off-campus neighborhoods using a combination of permanent and mobile camera units.
  5. License Plate Reader (LPR) Cameras: Installation of 63 License Plate Reader (LPR) cameras throughout the University District and on campus to assist in law enforcement investigations.
  6. Parking Garage Surveillance: Installation of surveillance cameras in all campus parking garages, complementing the more than 4,000 cameras already in place on the Columbus campus.
  7. Expanded Ridesharing Hours: Extension of discounted ridesharing hours through the Lyft Ride Smart program, now available from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., providing service to the Short North area.
  8. Safety Education: Addition of the “Stay Safe, Buckeyes” online safety class to the new student orientation checklist. This course covers topics such as crime prevention, reporting procedures, crime alerts, self-defense, mental health, and more.
  9. Off-Campus Community Crime Map: Introduction and promotion, starting in March 2022, of an Off-Campus Community Crime Map.

To gain a deeper understanding of the safety measures implemented by Ohio State since late 2020, an online safety overview is available.

The university also requires all new students to watch the “Surviving an Active Aggressor” video as part of their orientation. Additional safety resources and information are accessible through the university’s Department of Public Safety and Office of Student Life.

Clery Act Requirements: The Clery Act is a federal statute that mandates higher education institutions receiving federal funding to publish an annual safety report by October 1 each year. These reports must include incidents reported on campus, at the Wexner Medical Center, 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.

Ohio State University, in accordance with the Clery Act, ensures the following:

  • Counting Incidents: Incidents are counted in the year they were reported, not the year in which they occurred.
  • Statistics Reflect Reporting: Statistics reflect the total incidents reported, not the total number of victims. One individual can report multiple incidents, and each is counted separately and added to the total.
  • Incidents Reported by Others: Incidents are included in the statistics when an individual reports that another person was a victim of a crime, or when multiple individuals were victims. If no further details are available, determinations are made based on the characterization provided by the reporting party.

The statistics for this year’s report include incidents of sexual abuse by Richard Strauss. Strauss was a university-employed physician from 1978 to 1998, and allegations of his abuse were the subject of an independent investigation by Perkins Coie LLP, which concluded in 2019. This investigation detailed acts of sexual abuse against former students by Strauss. For this year’s security report, Perkins Coie provided the majority of Strauss-related data, which is based solely on allegations made in lawsuits filed against the university related to Strauss.

2021 Reporting Statistics for Columbus: The statistics in the report cover a wide range of crime categories on the Columbus campus. In 2021, many crime categories saw only modest statistical changes, either slightly increasing or decreasing. However, the reported numbers remain significantly lower than the 2019 pre-COVID data. Here are some notable statistics:

  • Aggravated Assault: Increased from 9 to 11 (down from 22 in 2019)
  • Burglary: Increased from 36 to 44 (down from 71 in 2019)
  • Stalking: Increased from 57 to 68 (down from 91 in 2019)
  • Relationship Violence: Decreased from 37 to 34 (down from 64 in 2019)
  • Domestic Violence: Increased from 12 to 14 (down from 36 in 2019)
  • Motor Vehicle Theft: Saw a more significant increase, rising from 9 to 29.
  • Theft: Also increased from 4 to 8.

For the first time in four years, reports of rape decreased from 134 to 94 in instances unrelated to Strauss, while incidents of fondling increased from 59 to 79.

The decrease in rape reports can be attributed, in part, to the Office of Institutional Equity’s efforts to pinpoint the location of reported crimes more precisely. Fewer rape reports with unknown locations contributed to a reduction in Clery’s reportable statistics. The increase in fondling reports unrelated to Strauss, from 59 to 79, may reflect continued education on sexual assault and harassment. The university places a strong emphasis on education, including mandatory annual sexual assault and sexual harassment training for all students, faculty, and staff.

Strauss-Related Statistics: The report also includes data related to the abuse committed by Richard Strauss during his employment at the university from 1978 to 1998. The independent investigation by Perkins Coie, commissioned by Ohio State in 2018, revealed acts of sexual abuse against former students and identified university personnel who were aware of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed to take meaningful action.

Because the Clery Act requires incidents to be counted in the year they were reported rather than the year in which they occurred, this year’s report includes incidents reported in 2019, 2020, and 2021 related to Strauss. These statistics include:

  • 3,133 cases of fondling and 206 cases of rape attributed to Strauss.
  • The figures are based on allegations made in lawsuits filed against the university in connection with Strauss’ abuse.

The report reflects the most current information available to the university. However, it is possible that Ohio State may learn of new information through various means, including additional reports or litigation, which may lead to changes in these statistics. The university is committed to keeping the campus community informed if such changes occur.

Given the Clery Act’s requirement to count incidents in the year they were reported, rather than the year they occurred, additional Strauss-related incidents may be included in the statistics for the next several years.

In the 24 years since Strauss left the university, Ohio State has implemented several safeguards and initiatives to address and prevent similar issues in the future. Detailed information on these programs and initiatives is available on the university’s Strauss investigation website.

In conclusion, Ohio State University’s Annual Safety and Fire Safety Report provides a comprehensive overview of the university’s efforts to ensure the safety and security of its community members. While the report reflects some fluctuations in crime statistics, the university remains committed to its ongoing initiatives to enhance safety and prevent future incidents. Ohio State’s commitment to transparency and accountability is evident in its compliance with the Clery Act and its dedication to addressing past issues while working to create a safer environment for all.

Leave a Reply