Security report shows increase in sex assaults and decrease in alcohol incidents at UAF

Published: Nov. 3, 2023 at 9:04 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The University of Alaska released it’s annual security and fire report, revealing the changes in crime since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While college campuses are generally considered safe places, there’s certainly no absence of crime. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, on-campus crime decreased by 22 percent during the pandemic, but the decrease has not been maintained post-pandemic.

Each year UAF releases a security and fire report along with a report for the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. These reports include statistics for violent crime, drug related crimes, fire incidents and more.

The most concerning numbers in the latest report comes from violent crimes, specifically rape. “The numbers did go up in the last year. This is the number of things that’s been reported, so it’s hard for us to interpret whether that means. It’s happening more or if people feel more comfortable coming forward,” said Graeme Abraham, the assoc. director of institutional compliance at UAF. In 2022, there were eight rapes reported on campus and one off-campus, all which occurred in student housing. During the pandemic, those numbers were down to five and six in 2020 and 2021 respectively. “We have a lot of programmatic efforts in trying to get students aware of the issue and who they can report to,” Abraham said.

Nationally, forcible sex offenses made up 44 percent of reported campus crimes, or about 6.6 sex offenses per 10,000 students. That data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics. But, with about 7500 students enrolled in 2022, UAF has a slightly higher than average occurrence of such offenses.

Looking to enhance those efforts the university is bringing back a program called Green Dot. Green Dot is an intervention training program designed to prevent these assaults before they happen. It’s another tool being used by the university among others such as awareness brochures.

Other forms of sex assault have seen an increase since the end of the Coivd-19 pandemic, all of which occurred on campus. This primarily included incidents of fondling. While there were zero cases of fondling for which there were three in 2020, one in 2021 and four in 2022.

One statistic that didn’t change during the pandemic was the occurrence of domestic violence. During and after the pandemic, the number of domestic violence incidents was reported to about nine cases in all three years.

Incidents of stalking was harder to analyze as there were 16 cases in 2020, dropping drastically down to five in 2021 and rising again in 2022 with ten cases. “For the Cleary Act, the definition of stalking is quite different from what people generally think of when they hear stalking and that’s one of the reasons we see a high number,” Abraham said. The definition used by UAF, which is derivative of the Cleary Act, is two or more events that cause distress or fear for safety. However this can include something as simple as unwanted texts or conversations, which make up a majority of the incidents.

While weapons incidents have been historically low despite Alaska’s loose weapons regulation, assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft have remained at similar rates. For aggravated assaults did decrease in 2021, but the count shows three and four incidents in 2020 and 2022 respectively, most of which happened on campus. For burglary and motor vehicle theft, numbers were also down in 2021 but retained the same or similar counts in 2022 with no consistent patterns reported. Compared to national averages, UAF has a higher occurrence of motor vehicle theft, robbery and aggravated assault, but a lower rate of burglary.

Learn how UAF is working to combat drinking offenses on campus.

In terms of drug and alcohol, the numbers significantly increased during the pandemic but have since come down. “Drugs not as much of a jump, but alcohol specifically. There was the isolation factor which probably led to a lot more drinking, there was also the factor that bars were harder to access,” Abraham said.

During the pandemic citations for possession were more common as students had alcohol in their dorms where it is banned. One major difference between UAF and other schools is the occurrence of drug and alcohol violations which has remained higher than the national average.

In response to that issue, “if somebody gets in trouble, then they have to go through this alcohol EDU class,” Abraham said. This class is comprised of a pre-assessment, seven modules and a final exam with a minimum passing score of 80 percent. Whether or not is has a significant impact remains unknown, but the university believes strongly in the course. “In the future, we are going to experiment with having students go through with it just in their first year in general,” said Abraham.

In addition to those courses, new initiatives are starting up to promote sobriety. “A big one this year is the So-Bear Lounge which they’ve started up at the Wood Center,” Abraham said. This is less of a program and more of a way to engage students in social activities without putting themselves in an environment with alcohol. According to Abraham, this new initiative has so far been popular with students. One reason for that may be the opportunity for students over and under 21 to enjoy the same activities in the same spaces.

The university is also considering things like vending machines specifically filled with alcohol recovery drinks such as Liquid IV. These vending machines could theoretically provide these items for free or at a discounted price and would be placed in every dorm building.

In fire crimes, there were three recorded arsons, one of which occurred at a housing facility. But no serious damage occurred. “Typically when somebody hears arson they think like, burning down buildings or trying to burn down buildings, but in this context it can be very minimal,” said Abraham. “One of those fires was a simple burning off wood debris that did not belong to the individual. That incident occurred in the Hess Village student housing meanwhile other incidents were recorded at McIntosh Hall.”