WAFF 48 Investigates: Clery Act compliance - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

WAFF 48 Investigates: Clery Act compliance

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Some area college students weren't aware about a crime log that is supposed to be accessible to them. Some area college students weren't aware about a crime log that is supposed to be accessible to them.

Congress passed The Clery Act more than two decades ago. Every school that receives federal student aid money has to produce an annual crime report. However, most students we spoke to didn't know the law also requires schools to maintain a crime log that's accessible to the public. 

Over a three day period, we stopped by unannounced to 10 North Alabama community colleges and universities. We sought out campus security and police and asked one simple question: Could we have access to the schools daily crime logs? 

Under The Clery Act, that's a question every school has to answer. You do have to make the request during normal business hours, which we did. If a school is not in compliance, they can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Each school has to keep an annual crime log as well as a 60-day log with information on crimes including rapes, robberies, murders, and thefts.

That 60-day log also has to be publicly accessible. But when we alerted students to the crime logs, some didn't even know they existed.
Our investigation began in the Shoals. Both Northwest Shoals Community College and the University of North Alabama gave us access to their logs within seconds of making the request.

Further investigation found Athens State University, Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University, the University of Alabama Huntsville, Calhoun Community College's Huntsville campus, and North East Alabama Community College all following the law.

However, we did run into a minor issue at the University of North Alabama. The UNA police chief gave us a paper copy of the logs but also told us he posts them online. When we checked that out for ourselves we discovered nobody updated the logs from mid-February to mid-March.

Two screen grabs were made, from March 7th and then five days later on March 12th, showing the lack of updates. We alerted the school.  

"It could be when I downloaded them to the computer they got named differently when I put them into the computer or I put them in the wrong file so i'll have to check that," said UNA Police Chief Bob Pastula. "I'm glad you told me." 

But when we stopped by Calhoun Community College's main campus and Snead State Community College we uncovered some problems.

Calhoun Community College's security officer couldn't access the logs because they were locked up in the chief's office and the chief left for the day. We stopped in the early afternoon, well within normal business hours. The security officer told us to go to the school's PR office. Administration greeted us there and after 45 minutes worth of phone calls the school provided the logs.

"It's not like we're trying to hide information," said Calhoun Community College's Janet Kincherlow-Martin. "Again, if information is asked for we will provide it." 

We then visited Snead State Community College a few days later. We stopped in around noon. Again, well within normal business hours. Their security office is located inside a dorm. Nobody answered when we knocked. I called the school's Marketing and PR Department multiple times over a 30 minute period, left messages and waited.

After sitting outside the building for for nearly 45 minutes, Snead State administration met me and explained the school's head of security had left for the day for personal reasons. I asked to see the crime log. Administration couldn't come up with it or even access the security office. Administration called the head of security who told us over the phone he had the logs with him and admitted they were not publicly available for our visit. Snead State administration did send us a copy of the logs the next day.

The school sent us a statement, which reads:
"Our security staff maintains a daily log of activities in addition to publicizing a Security Report annually on our website for access by students and the community. Unforeseen circumstances called our security administrator off campus prior to receiving the request for the log information from WAFF 48, but we were able to forward this information within 24 hours of the request being made." - Snead State Community College. 

A school spokesperson said Snead State administrators will review policies and procedures regarding what went wrong. They also want to involve student leaders in the process and will move forward with that review when everyone returns from Spring Break next week. 

Are both schools in compliance? It appears they are, even though the law states the logs "open to inspection, upon request, during normal business hours." A US Department of Education spokesperson told WAFF there are no minutes assigned in the definition of open to inspection, upon request, during normal business hours, so the wait times I experienced at Calhoun Community College and Snead State Community College fall in a gray area that would require a full review by the US Department of Education before any determination of non-compliance could be made. 

For a list of 11 area college and university crime logs and/or disclosures, click here.

Copyright 2014 WAFF. All rights reserved.
  • Inside WAFFMore>>

  • Crime logs/disclosures

    Crime logs/disclosures

    Thursday, March 27 2014 7:18 PM EDT2014-03-27 23:18:30 GMT
    Northwest Shoals CC UNA Athens State* (PDF) Calhoun CC * Oakwood University Alabama A&M (PDF) UAH Northeast AL CC Snead State University of AL Auburn *Disclosures onlyMore >>
    Northwest Shoals CC UNA Athens State* (PDF) Calhoun CC * Oakwood University Alabama A&M (PDF) UAH Northeast AL CC Snead State University of AL Auburn *Disclosures onlyMore >>
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