Like cops in any major city, campus police officers at many private universities carry guns and can arrest people on the spot. Because they don’t work for taxpayers, the public can’t always delve into the records of what they do and where they do it, says the Christian Science Monitor. That may be changing. At Yale University, an attorney is successfully prying open personnel records of the campus police department. In Georgia, 2006 legislation opened up police records at private universities to public view. Crime records at private universities are “the last major issue in terms of getting access to crime information,” says S. Daniel Carter of Security on Campus, Inc.
“For PR purposes, colleges want to perpetuate the impression that their campuses are crime-free enclaves,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Va., which supports college newspapers. “Honestly, no one believes that. Everyone believes that a campus with 20,000 or 30,000 young people on it is going to have some crime. It’s not even an effective charade.” Since 1990, all colleges that take part in federal financial aid programs – which is most of them – have been required to release annual reports about crime on campus, make crime logs available to the public, and provide warnings about imminent dangers. The law doesn’t require colleges to release individual crime reports or police-department personnel files, and some private campuses decline to do so. Steven Catalano of Harvard University’s police department, which employs more than 100, says making more information public would have a “chilling effect” on people’s willingness to report potential problems.