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The Campus Safety Law and Data

Universities and colleges are large. They have a lot of people and buildings, sometimes spanning more than one square mile. This is the equivalent (in Milwaukee terms) of an area twice the size of the entire Third Ward. Yah, it’s big.

Within that vast area, and nearby, you have thousands of people who live and work. There’s a lot of foot traffic. And there’s a lot of people of all makes and variations. And among those many people may be quite a few folks that are unfamiliar with “big city livin’” and therefore unaccustomed to the elements of crime that may be attempting to prey upon them. Add to that a healthy dose of personal exploration with a variety of substances, and you’ve got the equivalent of several atomic reactor’s worth of combustible energy. So sometimes it’s easy to forget why large universities have public safety departments, and why they are so important.

Along that line, I recently found out that there is a federal law that requires universities to publish a public fire and safety report annually. This law is interpreted by schools in different ways, but needless to say it does report crime data nonetheless. However, there is no standard on reporting data, so the data in its current format is useless to anyone who might want to evaluate trends on campus crimes. Or someone who might want to use it as a tool to identify trends and prevent crimes.

So why not look at campus public safety as a neighborhood initiative? For example, UWM reports its crime data to Milwaukee’s COMPASS tool, found here.¬†For those of us that live near a university, we are very much affected by how the campus public safety teams are operating. Might be time to bring them into the data discussion.

UPDATE (2/20/2013): I found a resource that allows pulling of the reports and data in CSV format here.