Is UWL as Safe as We Think?

retrieved from

Karley Betzler, General Assignment Reporter

This past spring semester, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Sophomore Carolyn Voelker’s car windows were smashed.

Her car was parked in a campus parking lot and, according to Voelker, many other cars in that lot were also damaged.

“When I went to get an estimate, the mechanic was sure someone had smashed it and even told me where they stood when they did it,” stated Voelker. She went on to say that she wished the parking lot would’ve had security cameras, that way the assailant could’ve been caught.

This event is not unique, that same semester UWL Sophomore Carissa Bieberdorf’s car had been vandalized on two separate occasions while parked in the parking ramp.

“Someone took the air out of my tires. I was also keyed another time after that.” Bieberdorf recalled that her car was among many vehicles that had been keyed.

She too expressed her concern over the lack of security cameras and stated “I would get scared every night having to walk in [the parking ramp] by myself.”

Each year, UWL’s University Police release an Annual Security Report (ASR) to remain compliant with the Clery Act. The Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to disseminate a public annual security report to employees and students every year according to The Clery Center. The ASR must include statistics of campus crime plus details about efforts taken to improve campus safety.

In a statement, under UWL’s Student Life page, “This report will provide you with information on the safety and security of the UW-La Crosse campus.”

Within the Clery Act, according to the Department of Education, crimes such as, “…Vandalism of Property are included in your Clery Act statistics only if they are Hate Crimes.” If crimes such as vandalism are not classified as a hate crime, they do not need to be reported to the public.

Other crimes that can go unreported are larceny-theft, intimidation, and simple assault.

UWL Chief of University Police Scott McCullough described the reporting issue as a, “very complicated topic…” McCullough went on to say that UWL submits statistics to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program which includes data on property crime and larceny theft. According to the UCR, UWL had 119 incidents of property crime and 118 of larceny theft in 2016, the third highest in the UW System behind UW Milwaukee and UW Madison.

McCullough elaborated, “We do report everything that is listed in the Hate Crime section of Clery (except for intimidation) but not sure how or where they show up in their report.” McCullough later added, “We don’t actually look at the final [report] much.” McCullough stated that the University Police did not legally have to report to UCR.

In 2016, Rent College Pads ranked UWL number one in the UW System and number nine in the country for overall campus safety. However, this ranking was based on the Campus Security and Safety Database which compiles data from universities Clery Act compliant Annual Crime Reports and not their UCR’s.

McCullough was asked if not reporting certain crimes makes UWL seem safer, “Many things can affect a person’s perception of their safety, a burned out light at night, graffiti on a wall, personal experience, but knowledge of crimes can certainly affect this perception as well.” McCullough added that making campus appear safer has never been a consideration when reporting statistics.

As for looking forward and improving campus safety, both Voelker and Bieberdorf reported wanting security cameras on campus. McCullough stated, “UWL is currently reviewing the use of security cameras on campus, not just parking lots but the entire campus.”