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  • Ian Brooking

Clery Report: Increase in sexual assault at CCU, decrease in other crimes

On Sept. 29, 2017, the Department of Public Safety at Coastal Carolina released the 2017 Clery Report.

Captain Thomas Mezzapelle, training and compliance officer at the department of public safety, gave his thoughts on the recent report.

“For the most part, we had less crimes across the board,” said Mezzapelle. “Some numbers went up and some numbers went down. As we grow, the numbers are going to go up.”

The Clery Report covers all crimes and reported incidents from Jan. 1, 2014 to Dec. 31, 2016. Any incidents from Jan. 1, 2017 to now will be released on the 2018 Clery Act.

The numbers of arrests for drug and alcohol violations went down some, as did the number of referrals, or student conduct violations.

In regards to sexual assault, there were 17 reports of sexual assault in 2016 - an increase from the 11 cases in 2015.

Mezzapelle gave his take on the department’s consensus of the few crimes that have gone up on campus.

“We are never pleased to see the numbers grow,” said Mezzapelle. “But we know that it is coming from the fact that we are out there doing what we are supposed to do. We would love to see them come down. Seeing the sexual assault number makes us feel better in that we have a community that is reporting that crime...We are glad that students here are reporting that to somebody.”

Coastal Carolina takes crimes like sexual assault and domestic violence incredibly seriously. There are several programs and clubs on campus dedicated to the awareness of dating violence, sexual assault and harassment.

Jakayla Bailey, a junior Information Systems major at Coastal Carolina, gave her take on the report and what it means for students and for the University.

“This report definitely helps in spreading awareness of crime on campus, especially things like sexual assault,” said Bailey. “While I don’t think that more can be done to prevent sexual assault, I think that Coastal is on the right track with educating students on sexual violence and what consent is.”

Mezzapelle would agree with Bailey in that the University has helped tremendously in the effort to make students aware of sexual assault and harassment.

"This University has created an environment where there are lots of avenues for people to report it,” said Mezzapelle. “That way, they can all find somebody that they are comfortable with and talk about it. They have the ability to report it without having to go through a difficult criminal case.”

Although the report is good information for students and faculty, Bailey says that this didn’t help when it comes to her safety on campus.

“I don’t feel any less safe on campus after reading about those incidents on campus,” said Bailey. “I just feel more strongly about domestic abuse and sexual assault and what needs to be more strictly prevented. The stats in the report show that these issues are more common than most people could ever imagine.”

Mezzapelle says that the most common crime that is being seen by the department is the theft of bicycles.

“It’s getting a little bit out of hand at this point,” said Mezzapelle. “A lot of that is them taking the Coastal bicycles and we are looking at a way to deal with that. It is a rented bicycle, and the person who is renting it is going to be on the hook for it and it just gets into a strange area.”

While Horry County is facing a terrible heroin epidemic, Mezzapelle is grateful that the harder drugs have made no real presence on campus.

“The biggest drug violations we see here involve marijuana,” said Mezzapelle. “While laws involving it are changing all over the place, it is still very illegal in South Carolina. As for the harder drugs like heroin and cocaine, we are not seeing it in our residence halls. Many of our officers are trained in what to do with an overdose victim and have access to the Narcan to use on a victim to get them to hospital. We are going to treat it like the crime it is and the problem it is and put them in touch with counseling services and if we need to, take them to jail.”

Mezzapelle wants people in the community to know to always be aware of your surroundings here on campus and to be smart.

“We want them to be aware that while we are a college community, there are still 13,000 people here,” said Mezzapelle. “There are crimes out there and they can’t expect that nothing is going to happen. Be aware of what is going on around you. Lock your bicycles, cars and apartments because we are seeing that people are going for the easy opportunities.”

The Clery report shows there was one hate crime involving a vulnerable adult in 2016.

There was also a total of 16 unfounded cases: five stolen bicycles, four larcenies, one vandalism, one malicious damage, one stole license plate, one fraudulent use of an FTC, one robbery, one sexual assault and one burglary, according to the report.

To read more of the Clery report, click here.

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