Reports of alcohol, sexual abuse up in ‘07

By Alice Haymond

Reports of sexual abuse and of minors in possession of alcohol in 2007 were the highest they have been in at least six years, according to UK Police Department statistics released in January.

But police and administrators say the numbers represent more intense patrolling, not an increase in misbehaving students.

Alcohol intoxication reports jumped slightly in 2007 to 238, up from the all-time low of 197 the year before. Both are lower than the average of 454 reports for the four years prior to 2006.

Interim Police Chief Maj. Joe Monroe said the increase in alcohol reports this year did not surprise him because police intensified their party task force early in the fall 2007 semester.

UK and Lexington police officers increase their patrol presence near off-campus housing at the beginning of each school year until the end of August. This fall, those teams patrolled longer — they were out two weeks before school began and kept patrolling until the end of September.

“It’s not saying there’s more occurrences of it,” Monroe said, “but we were just cracking down on it.”

According to the 2007 statistics, 54 minors in possession of alcohol were reported in the UK police records. That number is more than double last year’s 22, and in 2002, there were only six reports of minors with alcohol.

UK police’s emphasis on the first month of school stems from a history of fatal alcohol-related incidents at the university in recent years.

In 2006, Tevis Shaw, 20, was registered to begin his first semester at UK, but he fell off a cliff while intoxicated in the Red River Gorge area two days before the beginning of fall semester.

In 2005, Thomas Joseph Byers III, a 19-year-old English sophomore, was hit by a train and killed near the Virginia Avenue overpass after fleeing police at an off-campus party the day before classes began.

In 2004, Brian Anthony Muth, a 19-year-old accounting sophomore, was arrested on alcohol-intoxication charges the day before classes began. He was hit and killed by a tractor-trailer on New Circle Road after being released from the Lexington police department into the custody of a friend.

UK has initiated a few education programs to raise alcohol awareness on campus. Those programs include the social norm campaign, which advocates the idea that the majority of students do not drink excessively; the Genesis program, which promotes alcohol-free activities; and CAUSE, which makes efforts to educate students and promote awareness by speaking at residence halls, Greek houses and high schools.

The drop in intoxication reports from the previous four-year average could reflect the efforts of police and campus programs, but Dave Clark, study director at UK’s Center on Drug and Alcohol Research, said that statistics could be influenced by other changes at the university.

Education and enforcement are not the only factors, Clark said.  Less drinkers might be enrolling at UK and heavier drinkers might have graduated, he said.

More sexual assaults reported

Sexual assaults, which include reports of rape and sexual abuse, totaled 10 in 2007, up from four reports the year before. Although the number is higher than previous years, some officials said it is significantly lower than the actual number of sexual assault on campus.

“We have very, very few reported (sexual assault) crimes. We’ve found that a lot of times people aren’t reporting things that are happening to them to the police,” said Adam Pritchard, a senior research assistant at UK’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women.

But Pritchard said he hopes the increase is a result of recent efforts to raise awareness about sexual abuse.

“This isn’t something you should be ashamed of,” he said. “This isn’t something you should feel that you can’t report.”

The center surveyed more than 2,000 women on campus in 2007, and 19 percent of the respondents said they had experienced sexual victimization at some point during their time at UK, according to the Women’s Safety Study released last year.

If the police reports showed statistics like that, Pritchard said, more women would feel comfortable reporting sexual abuse crimes. But most women are hesitant to walk in and file a report because they think their case is not common, he said.

UK police are working with the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center, the UK Violence Intervention and Prevention Center and Safe Cats to make themselves more accessible to women who have been abused, Monroe said.

The police are also building partnerships with residence hall directors so that when a student reports a case of sexual abuse to a residence adviser, the director will feel comfortable reporting it to the police.

“We’d like to have more reporting in the short term, more people being aware, and less incidents overall,” Pritchard said. “The more people speak up, the more awareness other people have and the less tolerant our campus becomes to things like this.”