John J Sloan III. 21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook. Editor: J Mitchell Miller. 2009. Sage Publications.
Illegal activities occurring within the boundaries of postsecondary institutions (PSIs), including assaults, rapes, and even homicide, are not new, nor have college campuses escaped various forms of “high-tech” offenses such as cyberstalking or illegal sharing of copyrighted material such as videos and music. However, until very recently, crime on college and university campuses was something college and university administrators in the United States were reluctant to discuss. Typically, criminal incidents occurring on campus that involved students were either handled internally via closed campus disciplinary proceedings, the results of which were not publicly available, or they were quietly handled by the local authorities. PSIs were not forthcoming about how much crime occurred within their institutional boundaries, nor were they forthcoming about their security policies, including whether they even existed. In short, campus crime was a “dirty little secret” that few schools were willing to discuss, let alone admit was problematic, and schools went to great lengths to keep the secret.
That reality changed in the early morning hours of April 5, 1986, when Jeanne Clery, then a sophomore at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was raped, tortured, and strangled to death in her own bed in a campus residence hall by another student who had gained entry to her dormitory through a series of doors that had either been propped open or whose locks were defective. Ms. Clery’s death resulted in Lehigh being held civilly liable, as well as nearly a 5-year lobbying effort by her parents to get Congress to pass legislation that forced PSIs to “come clean” with their campus crime statistics and security policies.
To better understand campus crime, one needs to realize that it involves several contexts—the legal, the social, and the security—and that each context is interrelated with the others (Fisher & Sloan, 2007). The legal context involves judicial and legislative efforts to address campus crime, including institutional liability for on-campus victimizations and Congressional and state legislative efforts to address the problem. The social context involves efforts to develop more accurate measures of the extent and nature of campus crime, identify its major correlates, and understand better its temporal and spatial distribution. Finally, the security context involves not only law enforcement and security efforts to reduce or prevent crime on campus, but also recently has involved efforts to address “high tech” crimes such as identity theft or network intrusions occurring on college campuses.
By understanding that campus crime involves the intersection of these three contexts, one can then understand that campus crime is not simply about answering basic questions such as “how much is there” at a particular school, but is rather a multidimensional phenomenon that touches the lives of members of the campus community—students, staff, and faculty members—in a variety of ways.
The Legal Context of Campus Crime
The legal context of campus crime focuses on two branches of government: the judicial and the legislative. The judicial side involves court rulings that PSIs can be held civilly liable for victimizations occurring on campus, while the legislative side includes efforts by Congress and state-level legislatures to pass laws designed to address the problem of campus crime. Both judicial and legislative attention to campus crime is relatively recent and is continuing.
Postsecondary Institutional Liability
Turning first to liability issues relating to campus crime (Burling, 2003), courts have repeatedly ruled that PSIs may be liable for criminal victimization occurring on campus. This interpretation arises primarily through the law of torts, specifically negligence, although some courts have used contract law as the basis for their rulings (Burling, 2003). Under a negligence action, a victim can shift to the institution some, if not all, losses he or she incurred, but only when the plaintiff (victim) proves the following: (a) The university or college owed him or her a duty; (b) the university or college acted (or failed to act) in such a way as to breach that duty; (c) as a result of the breach, the plaintiff was injured; and (d) if the PSI had not acted (or failed to act) as it had, the plaintiff would not have been injured. Under contract law, the plaintiff/victim must prove the existence of either an expressed or an implied contract, the resulting breach of which resulted in his or her personal injury or property loss.
Generally, in negligence cases involving PSIs, the key issue for the court is to determine whether the institution had a duty to the victim and, if so, the basis of that duty. In making this determination, courts first have to establish that the relationship between the parties was such that from it, the PSI had a duty to the victim to prevent the victimization. To establish this, the courts have relied on three theories. First, some courts have argued that the relationship between the institution and victim, especially if a student, is intrinsically “special.” Other courts have argued the relationship between the victim and institution is comparable to that of landowner-business invitee, and thus specific duties arise on the part of the PSI. Finally, still other courts have argued the relationship between the PSI and victim is more protective than that of a landowner-business invitee, and instead is comparable to that of a landlord and tenant, which again gives rise to specific duties on the part of the PSI (Burling, 2003). Crucial here is that no one consensus theory has emerged nor has a national-level standard been created. Rather, courts in various jurisdictions have used one or more of these theories in their rulings.
Finally, some courts have not relied upon theories of negligence in establishing PSI liability, but have instead used breach of express or implied contract to hold them liable for campus crime-related victimizations. Courts using this theory have done so in cases where the PSI provided housing to students in dorms or university-owned apartments, and ruled the PSI may be liable for lax security under what is known as an “implied contract of habitability” that is included in the typical housing contract signed by the PSI and the student resident. In addition, because PSIs use advertising relating to housing as a way to attract prospective students, the courts have held that a PSI may, through its advertising, form either an express or implied contract with a prospective student to provide security measures to him or her in the dormitory, and if the measures are implemented incorrectly or are relaxed, the PSI may be held liable for damages under the theory of breach of contract.
Legislative Responses to Campus Crime
Beginning in the 1990s and extending into the present, Congress and nearly half of the states passed “campus crime” statutes. The first significant piece of federal legislation (Carter & Bath, 2007) was the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act of 1990 (hereafter, “Security Act”), which for the first time mandated that all postsecondary institutions eligible to receive federal financial aid funds under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, annually report and make available to the public their campus crime statistics and security policies. Institutional noncompliance could result in civil fines of up to $25,000 per violation, and in extreme cases, loss of eligibility to receive federal financial aid funds.
The significance of this legislation was its reporting requirements (Carter & Bath, 2007). Prior to passage of the Security Act, the only source of data on campus crime was available through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) program, which annually compiles and presents statistical analyses of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies at the municipal, county, and state levels of government, and is probably the best known and most widely used source of information on crime in the United States. The UCR published data on campus crime, but prior to passage of the Security Act, less than 5% of all PSIs in the United States provided their data to the FBI for inclusion in the UCR. Further, there was variability from year to year in not only the total number of schools participating in the UCR reporting program, but also in whether a specific school participated every year. Not uncommon was the situation where a school would participate 1 year, then drop out for 2 or 3 years, then return to the program (Sloan, Fisher, & Cullen, 1997). This kind of movement into and out of the UCR program made it difficult, if not impossible, to identify overall national-level trends in campus crime as well as trends at a particular campus.
With passage of the Security Act, Congress mandated that all PSIs make available to the public, on an annual basis, a compilation of crimes known to campus police/security and to publicly report the school’s security policies, including whether the school had a campus police department with full arrest powers and the department’s jurisdiction. The Security Act was subsequently amended several times during the 1990s, until in 1998 it was renamed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (hereafter, “Clery”) in remembrance of Jeanne Clery (Carter & Bath, 2007).
In its present form, Clery contains three key revisions to the original Security Act involving the reporting of campus crime data, dissemination of timely crime information to the campus community, and ensuring the protection of basic rights of both accuser and accused in sexual assault cases addressed using campus disciplinary mechanisms. As a result of these revisions, the security report now requires all PSIs, by October 1 of each year, to make publicly available a statistical compilation of serious violent and property crimes reported on their campuses, including hate crimes, by location of the incident, and violations involving drugs/alcohol/weapons that resulted either in an arrest or student disciplinary proceeding, as well as a description of the PSI’s security policies, including those relating to sexual assault and the power/authority/jurisdiction of campus police or security. The requirement of timely dissemination of information involves making crime logs available to the public that include the date, time, nature, general location, and known disposition of each reported offense, and—through warnings issued to the campus community—providing notice of serious incidents on campus that pose an ongoing threat to members of the community. Finally, PSIs are required to disclose specific policies in place to ensure basic rights for both accuser and accused in sexual assault cases handled via campus disciplinary proceedings. Clery also requires postsecondary institutions to publicly disclose where the public can find information on registered sex offenders attending classes at the school.
State legislatures have also passed their own Clery-style legislation (Sloan & Shoemaker, 2007). As of 2006, over 50% of the states had passed some type of “campus crime” legislation that involved either enabling statutes allowing colleges or universities in a particular state to create a fully functional campus law enforcement agency whose officers had full arrest powers and could use deadly force should the situation arise, or statutes that required PSIs to report their crime statistics to a designated state agency, such as the attorney general’s office, although there is a great deal of variation in the specific mandates of these statutes.
Proponents of Clery and similar state-type legislation argue that greater public awareness of campus crime will result in reduced levels of on-campus victimization, as people will take better precautions once they know the danger they face. Critics, however, argue that Clery and its state-level clones represent little more than symbolic efforts by Congress and the states to address campus crime because (a) the statutes’ reporting requirements are based only on incidents actually known to campus police/security, which victimization research shows accounts for only a small portion of all crime occurring on campus and as a result, seriously undercounts the true extent and nature of campus crime; (b) the statutes fail to include reporting requirements for the most common form of campus crime—thefts—and as a result, the reporting requirements overemphasize the reporting of violence while underemphasizing the reporting of property crimes like theft; and (c) sanctions for institutional noncompliance (civil fines of up to $25,000 per violation in the case of Clery) are minimal and have rarely been implemented, while none of the current state-level statutes contains any sanctions for noncompliance.
In summary, the legal context of campus crime involves efforts by both the judicial and legislative branches of government to address such crime. These efforts have involved determining that PSIs can be held liable for on campus victimizations, particularly of students, under several theories of negligence or under contract law. Legislative efforts, particularly those of Congress, resulted in statutes mandating that all PSIs annually report their crime statistics and security policies, thus breaking the “wall of silence” that had surrounded campus crime for decades. While proponents of such legislation argue that these statutes will reduce on-campus victimization by educating members of the campus community about the extent and nature of crime on a particular campus, critics argue that because of flaws in the legislation, including omission of any reporting requirements for certain commonly occurring crimes like theft, a lack of significant sanctions for noncompliance, and the fact that the reporting requirements rely only on data compiled from crimes actually reported to campus authorities, legislative efforts are little more than symbolic attempts to address the problem.
The Social Context of Campus Crime
The social context of campus crime includes research efforts in such areas as developing better measures of its extent and nature, identifying its major correlates, and exploring its spatial distribution. Two key areas here have involved social science efforts to accurately estimate the extent and nature of the sexual victimization of college women and to identify and examine the role students’ lifestyles play in contributing to campus victimization.
During the past 15 years, four national-level surveys have gathered data on the victimization experiences of college students in general, and college women in particular (Fisher, Cullen, & Turner, 2000; Fisher, Sloan, Cullen, & Liu, 1998; Fisher & Wilkes, 2003; Gross, Winslett, Roberts, & Gohm, 2006; Koss, Gidycz, & Wisniewski, 1987). These studies reported that students generally had lower overall rates of criminal victimization compared to nonstudents of similar ages, including overall levels of violence. Further, the surveys showed the most common form of on campus victimization involves the theft of property. In addition, the surveys found that most students were victimized by other students who were known by (or at least familiar to) the victim, and that many victims had not taken any steps to prevent their victimization (e.g., asking someone to watch their property or not parking their vehicle in a dark lot). The surveys also reported that alcohol or drugs were involved in many instances of on-campus victimization. The surveys discovered that a large portion of all students who were victimized did not report the incident to any campus authority or law enforcement agency. Finally, the surveys almost universally found that a large minority of college women experienced a wide continuum of sexual victimization, ranging from harassment to rape, in a given year. In short, for the first time, surveys had accurately described who was being victimized; where victimizations were occurring (on-or off-campus); what had occurred; who was perpetrating the victimizations; what steps, if any, the victim had taken to try and reduce his or her chances of being victimized; once the victimization happened, what the victim had done about it; and what role, if any, alcohol or drug use had played in the victimization.
Studies of violence against college women, besides finding that a significant portion of women experienced some form of sexual victimization during their college years, also found that few female victims ever reported their experiences to the proper authorities and either blamed themselves for what had happened or did not even perceive themselves as victims and therefore sought no help (Koss & Oros, 1982). In addition, the studies reported strong links between alcohol or drug consumption and sexual victimization, including presenting evidence that college men often planned their assaults of women by trying to debilitate them with alcohol, drugs, or some combination of the two. Finally, the studies found that college women experiencing sexual victimization reported suffering higher levels of depression, anxiety, hostility, and other mental health problems than did nonvictims (Fisher et al., 2000).
Another key area of research has examined the role that students’ lifestyles play in explaining campus crime, particularly the use of alcohol and drugs (Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2003). Students’ lifestyles and their “routine activities” such as traveling to and from the campus, studying in the library, walking on the campus at night, parking in public lots, and socializing at both on and off-campus locations where drugs or alcohol are available and consumed in large quantities, all create opportunities for criminal victimization (a) by exposing students to would-be offenders, (b) by making them desirable targets because of their possessions, or (c) because they failed to exert guardianship over their person or material possessions.
In general, victimization research shows that the people with whom one spends one’s time are important to understanding one’s exposure to potential offenders; this may be particularly relevant in the case of student victims, since many of them are victimized by other students. Campus victimization research shows that students attending a college or university with a greater proportion of minority students tend to experience higher rates of victimization than students enrolled at schools with small numbers of minority students. Students who spend a great deal of their time at home alone have a decreased risk of experiencing a violent victimization, as do students who spend more time with strangers in public places (in contrast to spending time with friends, family, or acquaintances).
Where students spend their time and at what time of day are also important in determining students’ proximity to potential offenders. Research shows, for example, that fraternity houses are an especially risky location for violent victimization, particularly for college women (Fisher et al., 2000). Students who spend their time away from home in the evenings are at generally higher risk for experiencing a violent victimization, while being away from home during the late afternoon seems to put students at the greatest risk for experiencing theft victimization at their homes.
Finally, students who spend time in activities that result in the victimization of others (typically involving a group type setting) are, themselves, more likely to become crime victims. Engaging in risk-taking behaviors, such as being involved in a fight or being aggressive or threatening, increases students’ risk for both violent and theft victimization, especially when these activities are combined with living in a dormitory.
Students’ lifestyles also contribute to their attractiveness as targets. Research more generally shows the risk of victimization increases for those unable to mount effective resistance, who possess property that is valuable or desirable, who find themselves in circumstances inhibiting effective self-protective actions, or who are frequently exposed to potential offenders. In the case of students, those living in residence halls and possessing desirable property, such as computers and other electronic equipment, are more suitable targets than are students who live alone in an apartment or with their parents. Students who spend multiple nights per week out “partying”—especially if they are consuming alcohol—also increase their attractiveness as targets.
Beyond exposure to prospective offenders and being a suitable target, the absence of capable guardians is a third key aspect of how students’ routine activities increase their risk for victimization. Generally, what little research that has been done on guardianship shows that students do not regularly employ tools or activities in their daily routines that reduce their chances for victimization. Further, college students who spend more time with strangers are seemingly more trusting and show lower levels of guardianship activities, and students who mainly rely on automobile transportation in the evening to get them to and from campus are less likely to employ effective guardianship activities.
One of the most important findings about students’ campus victimization is the role of alcohol, a key factor in college students’ lifestyles (Goldman, Boyd, & Faden, 2002). Evidence compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health’s College Alcohol Study (CAS), based on four national-level studies of college student drinking patterns conducted during the mid to late 1990s, indicated that about 80% of students enrolled at 4-year colleges and universities on a full-time basis self-reported that they regularly drank alcohol; about 50% of these students routinely “drank to get drunk”; some 40% engaged in binge drinking (drank four or more drinks in a row at one sitting in the 2 weeks prior to completing the survey); and roughly 20% of students frequently binge drank—at least three times during a 2-week period.
A final component of the social context of campus crime involves recent efforts to use crime-mapping technology to identify “hot spots” of crime on college campuses (Paulsen & Robinson, 2004). Research on crime more generally shows that it is not randomly distributed in space. Rather, it tends to cluster in certain places and tends to involve specific kinds of offending. Using sophisticated mapping technology and calls-for-service data compiled by police departments, researchers have identified “hot spots,” that is, places—residences, bars, hotels, convenience stores, etc.—about which a disproportionate number of police calls for service arise. They have also been able to identify the specific offense(s) that characterize a particular hot spot—for example, domestic violence.
Crime-mapping technology and hot spots analyses are being used both by campus crime researchers and by campus police departments to better understand the spatial distribution of campus crime, including how crime clusters within a particular building (e.g., a residence hall or classroom building). Recent research confirms that “hot spots” of crime exist on college campuses and that student residence halls, in particular, are hot spots for such offenses as drug violations, breaking and entering, assault, and sexual assault. Areas of high pedestrian traffic, such as those that join two segments of a campus or that directly surround major parking lots or decks, have also been identified as hot spots for such offenses as breaking and entering of vehicles. Using hot spots analyses, researchers and police officials can help to design and implement interventions designed to “cool” campus hot spots. For example, installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) in parking lots or decks may help to reduce breaking and entering of motor vehicles or vandalism of them.
In summary, national-level studies of college students’ victimization patterns show that college students, compared to people of similar ages who are not students, have lower overall levels of victimization, particularly violent victimization. These studies show that theft, and not violence (despite media obsession with shootings and other violent acts on campus), is by far the most frequent type of victimization. The surveys also show that a significant percentage of college women are victims of various forms of sexual assaults and that many victims never report the incident to proper authorities. Victimization surveys also show that students’ lifestyles—their routine activities—contribute to their on-campus victimization, particularly when those activities involve consuming alcohol or taking illegal drugs. Finally, recent research into the spatial distribution of campus crime shows that college campuses, like neighborhoods, have “hot spots” of crime—places where crime clusters and from which a disproportionate number of police calls for service originate. Using high-tech analyses, researchers and campus law enforcement officials can design and implement interventions to “cool” hot spots of crime on campus. Thus, while overall levels of on-campus victimization do not warrant describing PSIs as “ivory towers,” neither do they warrant characterizing them as “war zones” or “free fire zones” as some media sources have described them.
The Security Context of Campus Crime
The security context of campus crime is actually a subcomponent of a larger set of activities relating to campus safety. Because of liability issues facing PSIs, many campuses have developed sophisticated policing and security agencies and activities to address a variety of issues involving campus safety including physical security (such as controlling access to campus, to buildings or offices in them, or to public areas such as parking decks or lots); law enforcement (which includes responding to and investigating alleged illegalities occurring on the campus); and information technology security (such as infrastructure protection from cyber attacks or hacking, and securing sensitive information such as student records).
Major Eras in the Development of Campus Police
While the first campus police officers were actually two off-duty City of New Haven (Connecticut) officers hired to patrol the campus in 1894, research shows the evolution of campus police agencies occurred over three specific eras, each of which had unique features (Sloan, 1992). For example, during the “watchmen era” of the 18th and 19th centuries, a variety of college or university personnel, from university presidents to custodians, performed security functions on campus that ranged from preventing fires, to ensuring property was protected, to enforcing disciplinary codes in the dorms.
Between 1900 and the late 1960s, a new era arose in which formal campus security departments were created whose “officers” had two primary duties: enforce campus disciplinary codes of conduct and protect university property from fire, theft, or vandalism. At some schools, these departments were organizationally affiliated with the school’s physical plant operations, while at others the department was organizationally linked to the Dean of Students. In either instance, PSIs often hired ex-municipal police officers to serve as “directors” of campus security, who then brought with them law enforcement experience and who tried to inject some of that experience into the daily operations of their departments. This change in orientation planted the seed for what was to become the modern campus law enforcement agency.
The third era in the development of campus law enforcement occurred between the late 1960s and the 1980s. It was here that profound changes occurred in both the organizational structure and responsibilities of campus security departments. During the late 1960s, campus administrators, faced with the prospect of having armed, municipal police on their campuses in response to the social unrest that seemed to disproportionately touch college campuses, had to make a decision about how to best handle their law enforcement needs. Student protests, along with the emergence of radical groups bent on disrupting campus life through bombing campaigns and other activities, combined with the influx of recreational drug use among students, created an environment in which conflict betweens students and municipal police officers responding to campus unrest was inevitable and occasionally turned deadly. As a result, administrators realized that, on the one hand, while they needed a law enforcement presence on campus, they also realized a college campus needed a specialized type of agency to deal with its unique needs.
Out of this dynamic was born what some scholars (e.g., Sloan, 1992) have called the “modern campus law enforcement agency.” Led by progressive campus police executives who recognized the need for a professional law enforcement presence on campus but also that their agency had a special niche to fill, they systematically worked to create training for prospective campus police officers that combined traditional police academy training with additional training to help officers adapt to the unique campus environment and its dynamics. Soon, autonomous campus police agencies began to appear that resembled municipal police agencies in terms of their operational, tactical, and administrative dimensions. In short, during the 1970s and 1980s, campus law enforcement underwent a rapid and intense period of professionalization in which it adopted many of the common characteristics of municipal police agencies and thus gained “credibility” in the eyes of students, staff, and faculty members alike, since these campus officers were no longer “security guards,” but actual sworn law enforcement authorities who had undergone at least the same training as that experienced by municipal police officers. There has also been a decoupling of law enforcement from physical security under this model.
As campus law enforcement agencies evolved, they not only adopted organizational dynamics and characteristics similar to their municipal counterparts, but also embraced emerging technology as routine additions to their tactical and operational activities (Bromley & Reaves, 1998a, 1998b). For example, many campus police agencies now routinely use closed-circuit television to monitor such areas as parking decks, green space, or particular buildings seen as high-level security risks due to research or other activities occurring there. As mentioned earlier, campus police and security agencies have also begun using “hot spots” analysis to identify places on campus disproportionately responsible for calls for service and are reallocating personnel accordingly. In addition, most campus police agencies have adopted nonlethal technology, such as pepper spray, for use in the field.
Finally, during the past 20 years, like their municipal counterparts, an increasing number of campus law enforcement agencies in the United States have adopted Community Oriented Policing (COP) as their new organizational model (Paoline & Sloan, 2003). This model involves decentralizing operations, reducing the level of specialization in the agency, reducing organizational distances created by rank structures, creating closer contact and bonds with the campus community via changes in tactical operations, and seeking greater emphasis on problem solving by patrol officers.
High-Tech Crime and Victimization
A recent challenge for the security context of campus crime involves the appearance of high-tech crime and victimization, including but not limited to writing and distributing malware, such as viruses; disrupting computer service capabilities; spying and network intrusions, including computer hacking; fraudulent schemes, including identity theft; illegal file sharing and downloading of copyrighted material such as music or software; academic and scientific misconduct, including purchasing academic papers online; and online harassment, including threats and cyberstalking, activities that McQuade (2007) describes as “information technology-enabled” (ITE) crime and victimization occurring on college campuses.
McQuade (2006, 2007) has argued that understanding ITE crime involves recognizing there is a systems component, which comprises the wired/wireless computer networks that allow computers and other types of electronic devices to send and receive data and which serves as the backbone of the university, and a devices component, which is specific electronic equipment such as personal computers (PCs), scanner/FAX/copier equipment, cell phones, and electronic pagers that are becoming progressively smaller, more affordable, and more powerful than previous-generation devices, and which allow users the extensive ability to multitask. College campuses possess both components and, as a result, create numerous opportunities for ITE crime and victimization.
McQuade (2007) has suggested that to understand how the two components combine to create opportunities for ITE campus crime, one must understand that motivated offenders adapt systems and device technology for purposes other than those for which they were originally designed. Such adaptations are then diffused throughout the campus community via electronic communication and the Internet, which in turn creates more opportunities for additional motivated offenders to engage in these behaviors, since they learn how to do so from the successes of others.
By their very design, according to McQuade (2007), college and university campuses create environments in which illegal use of technology can be easily concealed and difficult to detect, except through the use of electronic monitoring. An illustration would be a student sitting in the school library, ostensibly studying, but using a cell phone to text someone else. The student may simply be responding to a previous message he or she received, but it is equally possible that he or she may be sending a threatening text message to a fellow student (cyberstalking). This illegal behavior is occurring “out in the open,” and yet no one is the wiser because no one is paying close attention to what the student is doing. As a result, ITE crime that is able to occur out in the open makes prevention or intervention all the more difficult. ITE crime is also problematic because many times victims do not even know they have been victimized; having your identity stolen or your academic records compromised is harder to detect than coming home and finding your residence has been burglarized. Such victimization is further facilitated by failure of members of the campus community to adequately protect sensitive information, such as their bank account or social security numbers; this exacerbates the problem and encourages offenders to exploit the opportunities they find.
McQuade (2006, 2007) points out that ITE crime does leave evidentiary traces—it does not occur “just” in cyberspace. Evidence of ITE crime is left on computer hard drives and in email communications. There is electronic evidence that can link a particular computer to a specific log-in to a secure network. All this evidence can be retrieved, analyzed, and used to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions. Thus, a relatively new challenge for campus law enforcement is to have the necessary training and expertise to facilitate the retrieval, analysis, and presentation of evidence relating to ITE crime.
Recent surveys of college students at three major research and technical universities reveal the extent of selfreported student involvement in ITE crime as both victims and offenders (see McQuade, 2007). The results show that nearly half the students reported they had been harmed by malicious codes, such as computer viruses or similar destructive programs, while about 1 in 5 students reported they had experienced online harassment, including cyberstalking, and 1 in 10 students reported their computers had been “hacked.” Further, on the offending side, over three fourths of the students reported they had illegally shared music files, videos, or other copyrighted material more than once, with over half reporting they had illegally shared music files 31 times or more. Also fairly common were such behaviors as unauthorized software sharing, purchasing papers on the Internet, or using information technology to cheat on examinations. How well these data represent college students’ ITE criminal behavior more generally remains unknown, as no large-scale, national-level surveys of such behavior have been conducted to date.
One response by PSIs to ITE crime is to create Information Security Offices within the IT department of the college or university (McQuade, 2007). Staff working in these offices are responsible for installing and maintaining technological safeguards; monitoring network traffic and activity; and preventing, detecting, and responding to instances of ITE crime. Personnel in Information Security Offices also work in tandem with campus law enforcement and other authorities (e.g., the FBI) to pursue investigations of ITE crime.
In summary, PSIs face a huge challenge in the realm of ITE crime and are increasingly devoting the time, energy, and resources necessary to help prevent, detect, and respond to such activities. As information technology becomes an ever-increasing lifeline for institutional functioning, PSIs’ ability to adequately safeguard sensitive information, design and implement safeguards to prevent behaviors such as network intrusions or denial-of-service attacks, and educate students about the responsible use of electronic devices and the ethical and legal choices they face when using such devices become a more and more important part of the security context of campus crime.
The security context of campus crime has undergone fundamental change over the past 100 years, and the pace of change is accelerating with each passing year. During the past century, campus security evolved from activities in which a variety of personnel engaged, to an agency in which highly trained and professional law enforcement officials now address the security and safety needs of PSIs in this country. Autonomous campus police agencies emerged, adapted to the unique needs of college and university campuses, and decoupled themselves from traditional kinds of security activities, such as issuing keys or identification credentials. More recently, campus security has come to include efforts to address high-tech opportunities for illegal behavior, and as a result, information technology security has become a key part of campus security operations.
Illegal behavior occurring on college campuses includes both traditional types of crime like burglary and rape, as well as emerging forms of crime that involve the use of technology, such as cyberstalking or hacking into computer networks. These behaviors involve at least three contexts: the legal, the social, and the security. Each context comes with its own set of basic issues, which touch the lives of members of the campus community—students, faculty members, and staff. For decades, however, postsecondary institutions (PSIs) treated campus crime as a “dirty little secret” and were less than forthcoming in revealing the extent and nature of the problem or in revealing how they would address the problem via security policies. As a result, members of the campus community and interested observers were literally “in the dark” about the problem.
For the past 20 years, PSIs have been forced to “come clean” about their crime problem. For example, in the legal context, the courts have shown a willingness to hold PSIs liable for on-campus victimizations under legal theories of negligence and breach of contract. This litigation helped force PSIs to be more proactive in acknowledging and addressing the problem. In addition, through congressional and state-level actions, legislation was passed that forced PSIs to begin publicly reporting their crime statistics and security policies, and ensuring that in cases involving on campus sexual assaults, both accuser and accused were guaranteed basic rights. Proponents of such legislation argue that greater dissemination of campus crime information would lead to reductions in on-campus victimizations because students, faculty members, and staff would begin taking better precautions to reduce their chances of victimization. However, critics suggest that the legislation is seriously flawed and represents little more than a symbolic effort by legislatures to address the problem.
In addition, the past 20 years have seen tremendous increases in social scientific research, resulting in several large-scale victimization surveys being conducted that have helped to uncover trends and patterns in campus crime, including the magnitude of the problem of violence against women on college campuses and the role played by students’ lifestyles in contributing to their victimization, especially the role of alcohol (the social context). These studies have documented that college students’ overall levels of on-campus victimization are lower than nonstudents’ of comparable ages; that theft and not violence is the most common form of on-campus victimization facing students; that students victimize other students; that many victims do not report their victimization to any campus or law enforcement authorities; and that a significant portion of college women experience a wide range of sexual victimization during their college years, including harassment, stalking, assault, and rape. These studies further show that students’ lifestyles result in their exposure to motivated offenders while simultaneously making them attractive targets for victimization, yet students routinely fail to take self-protective steps to reduce their risk of victimization.
Finally, in the past 20 years, the security context of campus crime has become increasingly important as PSIs have been forced by the courts, legislation, and pressure from members of the campus community to address safety and security issues on their campuses. As a result of these pressures, campus law enforcement agencies have emerged as an important component of the security context as these agencies have taken steps to become more “legitimate” in the eyes of the campus community and “user friendly” by focusing more attention on connecting with the needs of the campus community. PSIs and their security operations also have had to address a new form of campus crime involving the use of information technology, which threatens the very lifeline of the college or university through such activities as network intrusions or hacking into sensitive databases, or through such activities as cyberstalking or illegal file sharing.
The issue of campus crime is no longer simply about determining “how much is there,” but is instead a multidimensional problem that poses challenges and opportunities on several fronts. How PSIs address these challenges and opportunities will certainly shape understanding of campus crime as well as the risks it poses to members of the campus community.