Attorney General Cuomo Secures Landmark Agreement With Dominican College In Statewide Effort To Ensure Crimes On Campus Are Reported Accurately

 

NEW YORK, NY (June 12, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an agreement with Dominican College under which the school will reform its current system of reporting on-campus crimes in order to ensure accuracy. Cuomo also issued a letter to every college and university in New York State, alerting them that underreporting crime statistics violates state law.

The agreement stems from an investigation by Cuomo’s office into a complaint that Dominican, a private institution in the Hudson Valley with nearly two thousand students, was falsely reporting its campus crime statistics relating to sexual assaults. The complaint was sparked by the on-campus sexual assault of freshman Megan Wright in 2006. Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation found that over the course of several years, Dominican had erroneously reported the number of crimes that occurred on campus in their student handbook. It also found that Dominican did not have adequate procedures in place to ensure accurate reporting.

“When a college underreports crime statistics they put their students at risk,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Students and their families deserve an honest assessment of any potential dangers on campus, in order to protect themselves and make informed decisions regarding their own safety. Today’s agreement with Dominican is a step in the right direction, and my Office is committed to ensuring that colleges statewide take steps to ensure that their crime statistics are accurate.”

Federal law requires that colleges publish an annual report disclosing information about campus safety policies and procedures and reported campus crime statistics for the three most recent calendar years. Failure to do so accurately can constitute fraud under New York State law.

The agreement executed with Dominican College requires the school to make the following reforms, as well as pay $20,000 to New York State:

  • Require all employees responsible for campus security to attend a training program regarding crime reporting issues including the classification and definition of crimes, the collection of crime reports, timely warning requirements and annual disclosure requirements;
  • Designate officials to oversee and coordinate the collection of all campus crime reports to ensure that they are properly categorized and maintained to create an accurate crime report;
  • Designate officials to ensure that crime statistics are accurately published in the annual campus crime report; and
  • Designate an official who is responsible for ensuring that grievance procedures are in place for students.

In the wake of this investigation, the Attorney General’s Office issued a letter to every college and university in the State of New York advising them that failure to accurately report campus crime statistics violates New York law.

Jonathan Kassa, Executive Director of Security on Campus, Inc., a national non-profit campus security organization dedicated to the prevention of campus crime, said: “We thank Attorney General Cuomo for taking this very meaningful step to ensure that all students in New York are informed about the safety of their college campuses. Parents sending their children to school have a right to know whether the environment is safe, and young people who are leaving home, in most instances for the first time, should be accurately informed about the safety of their school. We commend the Attorney General for highlighting this important issue for all parents, students, schools and public agencies.”

This case is being handled by Bureau Chief for Civil Rights Alphonso B. David, Counsel for Civil Rights Spencer Freedman, and Assistant Attorney Generals Sudarsana Srinivasan and Kayla Gassmann of the Civil Rights Bureau.

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