Annual report shows arson, liquor law violations down at Kent State

Mitch Felan

Kent State’s main campus reported reduced liquor law violations and arson reports on campus property in 2015, according to a new report released Friday.

This year’s Kent safety and security bulletin collected annual arrest, report and student conduct referral data from all Kent State campuses from 2013 to 2015.

It is a yearly requirement per the 1990 Clery Act, which requires state-funded schools to make an annual public report on crimes such as drug violations, sexual assaults and robberies.

At Kent State, campus police find the report important.

“It’s always good to keep statistics to see where we’re at for different crime levels,” Kent State police officer Tricia Knoles said. “So we know where to focus on as far as getting public education out there.”

The report’s data is collected from local police departments, campus police reports, residence hall reports and Title IX cases.

According to Knoles, Kent State’s main campus is on a good track following reductions in two areas: arson and liquor law violations.

Arson reports in 2013 were abnormally high, according to the report, with 16 documented cases. In 2014 that number dropped to five, before dropping to three this year.

“This is linked to a drop in students lighting posters and signs on fire in the residence halls,” Knoles said. “We still categorized that as an arson. (For example) if someone took a lighter to a poster on a bulletin board.”

Knoles said this was a “theme” of the 2013 school year, and has since died down.

“They would light a corner of (the posters), someone would report it, we would go out and see there were singe marks from a flame, and we’d have to report it as an arson,” she said.

Another important reduction was in liquor law violations, which saw a reduction of 25 on-campus arrests from 2014 to 2015.

Knoles explains that the decrease might be due to Kent State police staffing and the turnover in student security aides.

“In some underage alcohol consumption charges —instead of having them charged — depending on how much alcohol was there and how many students were found in the residence hall, they would be turned over to student conduct versus being criminally charged,” Knoles said.

Since security aides are only able to refer offending students to student conduct rather than arrest them, Kent State police would turn the issue over to the school, depending on the case.

“We have to take care of in-progress emergencies first, so sometimes the student security aides would call us and if we had a lot going on with in-progress calls, we would tell the security aides to handle the (underage alcohol case),” Knoles said. “A lot of them ended up being referred rather than charged.”

However, the data also shows that the amounts of alcohol-related student conduct referrals declined by 31 cases last year, meaning cases may be on the decline altogether.

While those two areas saw reduction in the past few years, other areas such as on-campus domestic violence and burglary changed very little.

Robberies, for instance, only accounted for two cases in both 2014 and 2015, with no reported residence hall cases.

Dating violence reports dropped from 15 cases in 2014 to 14 in 2015, and domestic violence reports rose from two cases in 2014 to three in 2015.

“Year to year, it really amounts to the same,” Knoles said about the numbers in the report. “Number-wise, even though you’ll see a drop in certain areas, it’ll typically stay around the same average.”

Meanwhile, some numbers have changed due to the way they are reported. Forcible sex offenses, for instance, were recorded separately from “rape” and “fondling,” but now are combined. Those offenses dropped from 10 in 2014 to seven in 2015.

Knoles said that this year is going “fairly well” for the campus’ police department.

Contact Mitch Felan at [email protected].