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College Park shooting won't be reflected in university crime tally

When the University of Maryland issues its end-of-year crime report to the U.S. Department of Education — as is required by federal law — it will not include the recent off-campus shooting that left two students dead and another wounded.

Though the violence occurred less than a quarter-mile from campus, the university is not required to report it under the 1990 Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistic Act.

"The rules for Clery reporting are very exact, and this incident will not fall into the geographic area for which we report," Crystal Brown, a university spokeswoman, said in an email. The U.S. Department of Education, Brown said, "does not allow over-reporting."

The act, named after a woman raped and murdered by a fellow student at Lehigh University in 1986, is meant to improve the safety of students across the country by providing them with information. But it has been criticized in the past for having too narrow a lens.

The law requires universities and colleges to issue annual reports containing three years of crime statistics, including categories like homicides, sex offenses, robberies and drug violations. The law also requires universities and colleges to provide timely warnings of threats to campus.

Crimes must be reported if they occur on campus, an adjacent sidewalk, the road next to that sidewalk or the sidewalk on the far side of the road.

The home on 36th Avenue — where police say 23-year-old graduate engineering student Dayvon Green killed 22-year-old undergraduate Stephen Rane and wounded 22-year-old Neal Oa with a 9 mm handgun before killing himself — is just across University Boulevard: close, but well beyond the reporting limits.

University Police issued a single text and email alert about the shooting shortly after the incident occurred, but it had very limited — and incorrect — information. The next afternoon, well after police had outlined the details of the violence to media, some students said they were completely unaware three students had been shot, or that one of them was the alleged shooter.

Karen DeSha, whose son was fatally shot in his off-campus College Park home in January 2011, said the Clery standards are arbitrary and completely misleading.

DeSha’s 22-year-old son Justin DeSha-Overcash, a senior astronomy and physics major, was fatally shot in the home he rented on 38th Avenue, in what police said was a marijuana-related robbery. The home is two streets away from where Rane was killed.

"I know they don’t want parents to think things happen, but yeah, they do," DeSha said, of university officials’ stance on crime reporting.

"It wasn’t even a quarter of a mile off University of Maryland's campus," his mother, who lives in North Carolina, said this week.

When university officials released their 2011 Clery Act crime statistics, they reported zero homicides. Again, Brown said the incident fell outside the university’s geographic reporting area.

"I think it’s misleading," DeSha said, of student deaths like her son’s going unreported. "I don’t care how far off campus they live."

DeSha said she hopes a new bill at the federal level that seeks funding for a training and research center for college public safety agencies will help establish more safety measures for students, whether they live on campus or not.

Baltimore Rep. Elijah Cummings, who supports the bill, has a strong personal connection to the issue. His 20-year-old nephew was shot and killed in 2011 while a student at Old Dominion University, in an apartment just off campus.

The University of Maryland posts statistics required by the Clery Act here.

Read the annual report here.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

 

 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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