(Image courtesy of UMassD Police)
Staff Writer: Jesse Magnifico
How safe is UMassD?
The Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to post a security report for all students, faculty, and staff.
These Annual Security Reports (ASR) are made available every October 1st, and they cover statistics of all crimes on and associated with the campus for the three most recent academic years.
The current UMassD ASR covers the academic years 2020 to 2022. Categories of offense include:
- Murder/non-negligent (voluntary) manslaughter
- Negligent (involuntary) manslaughter
- Sexual assault (rape, fondling, incest, statutory)
- Aggravated assault
- Motor vehicle theft
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
- Liquor Law arrests and referrals
- Drug Law arrests and referrals
- Weapons Law arrests and referrals
- Hate crimes
Deep Diving into the Report
Before jumping in, it’s important to note how the university classifies and lists crime statistics.
Reported cases pertain to incidents that occurred on campus, bordering property, and anything UMassD leases or controls. Victims and perpetrators are not revealed in the ASR, only the number of cases reported and investigated.
All crimes and incidents throughout the 2020-2022 academic years have occurred on either the main campus or residential facilities, not SMAST, UMass Law Dartmouth, or the surrounding areas.
All crimes are conducted with corresponding parties and chapters, where applicable, such as the Title IX Coordinator, Division of Student Affairs, Human Resources, and Counseling and Student Development Center. All have to comply with Massachusetts and Federal laws of investigation.
If local law enforcement and emergency services respond to a crime before the campus police, they often notify campus police after the fact in courtesy.
Those who file a report have the right to file confidentially or anonymously, especially concerning sexual assault and domestic violence cases. Personal information revealing the victim’s identity is concealed, but responsible employees (Division of Student Affairs, Office of Housing, Residential Education and Athletics Department, etc.) must report to the Title IX Coordinator.
Regardless, the report will still count in the statistics.
Statistics for murder, negligent manslaughter, sex offenses, and aggravated assault count every victim involved. Per the report’s example, if three victims are caught in aggravated assault, the incident is reported as three accounts of aggravated assault. Motor vehicle theft is counted similarly, reporting each vehicle stolen.
Robbery, burglary, theft (larceny), and arson are counted as individual instances. For example, if five students walking in a group across campus are robbed, that is counted as a single case of robbery. It doesn’t matter how many victims are involved, just how many times robbery or likewise occur.
It is somewhat comforting to know that there are zero cases of murder, negligent manslaughter, incest, statutory, robbery, hate crimes, liquor law arrests, and drug law arrests between the 2020-2022 academic years.
But UMassD is not clean.
At the peak of the pandemic, the 2020 school year experienced:
- 2 rape cases
- 3 burglaries
- 1 motor vehicle theft
- 3 stalking incidents
- 1 domestic violence case
- 11 liquor law referrals
- 6 cases of rape
- 2 victims of aggravated assault
- 2 burglaries
- 1 stalking incident
- 2 domestic violence cases
- 1 dating violence case
- 90 liquor law referrals
And in 2022, there were:
- 4 rape cases
- 6 fondling cases
- 4 aggravated assaults
- 5 burglaries
- 1 motor vehicle theft
- 3 arson incidents
- 3 domestic violence cases
- 26 liquor law referrals
- 2 drug law referrals
- 1 weapon law arrest
- 3 weapon law referrals
2022 is the scariest year seen in the report.
Besides the large number of liquor referrals across all academic years and specifically in 2021, aggravated assault has doubled from two to four between 2021 and 2022.
Burglaries have steadily climbed since 2020, more than doubling from two in 2021 to five in 2022.
Fondling sees its first appearance across the listed academic years in 2022 with six separate incidents. Three cases of arson also happened in 2022, and only then. Three occurred in Spruce involving a “malicious shower curtain” and one in Pinedale from a candle, which is prohibited in residence.
The three Spruce fires cost $250 in damages, and Pinedale’s $50. No injuries or fatalities came out of them.
Shockingly, 2022 is the only year in the ASR where weapons (guns, ammunition, knives, machetes, paintball guns, etc.) see an arrest and three referrals. The fact that there has been an arrest and referrals at all is a tad worrisome.
What happened between 2021 to 2022?
Declining Feelings of Safety Means We Need Better Protection
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has dwindled and the UMassD community has well since returned to campus, we must remain vigilant. We can’t let our guard down for a second, regardless of the time of day.
This especially applies to the administration and campus police.
The ASR statistics may appear few and far between (excluding the liquor referrals), but the fact they have happened at all and are rising practically every year raises safety concerns.
I transferred to UMassD in the Spring 2023 semester. While setting up my student account, I remember receiving emails from campus police regarding a drive-by BB gun shooting in the Fall 2023 semester, a robbery in a couple of the dorms, and some ominous message about reporting to campus police immediately if a certain professor was seen on campus.
Then, when I was here in the Spring, I remember terrible things happening to students week after week, building up to the point students were staying home, and professors were advocating for students’ “mental health and safety” because it all was too much to bear.
Talk about being welcomed.
These cases – with no action from the school’s administration and campus police – prompted the Torch to speak up on the students’ and faculty’s behalf in the trying times. It’s the fact that it took a student’s death after months of complaints about Ring Road’s lack of walkability and speed limit regulation to spark change.
It’s not so much sending condolences and offering services during a tragedy, but safety enhancements and security enforcement are necessary when incidents keep occurring. Things happen, yes, but they will happen less if UMassD has better security and campus police are vigilant.
It is not only the students’ duty but the administration’s and especially the campus police’s duty to seek and enforce better safety measures so incidents don’t keep happening — so faculty and students can focus on their teaching and studies rather than worry about the next tragedy.
When the latter takes over, deeper issues are at play that need solutions. These problems are not entirely the student body’s fault.
It’s chiefly security.
We’re beyond thankful and grateful for the changes to Ring Road in response to the tragedy this past spring, but other safety issues still need addressing.
Time and time again, I’ve overheard students’ complaints and warnings about certain students that are not followed up promptly or appropriately. Plus, campus police have sent several emails in October this semester alone about nasty assaults either between unaffiliated outsiders and/or students near the freshman dorms, resulting in injuries small and large.
In personal response, students have skipped class because they fear for their safety.
Imagine being too afraid to walk on campus, let alone be on it? That is no place for education.
We don’t feel safe on campus because buildings have no security. Anyone can walk and get in anywhere across campus, whereas many institutions use card readers to ensure that only campus affiliates can access buildings, classroom spaces, labs, and resource centers.
My friend who graduated from SUNY Cobleskill this past Spring indicated that security cameras lined all campus buildings’ entrances and exits, and all doors were locked at 10 PM.
Here at UMassD, doors to the main buildings are open way past nightfall when danger and crime potential are at their peak, and there are no cameras at the entrances/exits of the lecture/lab buildings.
Much of the security is deferred to the faculty. Security is not a one-way street.
All these issues have resulted in potentially dangerous situations.
Professor Elisabeth Buck mentions, “An individual unaffiliated with UMassD went straight to the Writing and Multiliteracy Center in Spring 2023 and attempted to make an appointment with an undergraduate tutor. The nonaffiliated individual was determined to be a potential threat, but the only solution offered was to distribute a poster with the individual’s face with the instructions to ‘Call campus police’ if they were spotted again, as well as installing a panic button in the center.”
A panic button is not a proper solution. Two professors operate the WMC and cannot be in the Center during all operating hours. Because of instances like this, they continually beg for full-time WMC staff for the safety of their tutors.
Harmful trespassers keep leaking in, and no one properly monitors and tracks who walks in and out of the buildings and across campus.
I understand UMassD is a public campus, and there are many students, faculty, and staff to be on top of every bit of the day and night, but UMassD requires more security. We need cameras, special lock mechanisms on the outside doors that allow UMass-affiliated students in after hours, and frequent patrols across campus to ensure the UMD community is kept safe from unaffiliated members who can potentially cause harm.
Concerns need to not simply be heard but listened to.
UMassD students and faculty, we need to look out for each other. More importantly, the administration and campus police must look out for us.
Students and faculty appreciate what you have done and are doing to better the community, but please continue to deliver your utmost hard work and keep UMassD safe.
Patrol the campus.
Lock the doors.
Tell the Torch what you think about safety at UMass Dartmouth using this feedback form.
*Article edited for minor grammar & clarity corrections on 11/13/23
*Notated 11/20/23 – When interpreting the data present about crime on campus, keep in mind that data recorded during 2020-2021 had a reduced presence of students on campus due to COVID, which may have impacted the rate of crime and therefore the collection of accurate data.