Reports of assaults, sex crimes rise at some Oklahoma universities in 2011
The latest campus crime statistics show Langston University leads Oklahoma in aggravated assaults, while reports of forcible sex crimes increased last year at Oklahoma's two largest universities.
Langston University Police Chief Frank Atkinson has only been on campus since August. But already the students have a nickname for him — “Homeland Security.”
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Building a rapport with students on campus is a big part of Atkinson's role, he said. But as for the nickname, he said he doesn't know much about it.
“I've heard rumblings,” he said.
Atkinson heads the agency tasked with keeping the peace on a campus that has struggled to combat a crime problem that has existed several years.
The latest campus crime statistics show Langston continues to lead the state in aggravated assaults, although that figure dropped sharply last year.
In 2011, Langston saw 13 aggravated assaults, according to federal campus crime data.
Although that's a sharp drop from the 20 cases the campus saw the previous year, it's still nearly as many as every other public college and university in the state combined.
Before coming to Langston this year, Atkinson worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security — hence the nickname — and before that for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. He wouldn't speculate about assaults that took place before he came to Langston but said it's generally difficult to pinpoint exactly where campus crime begins.
Students come to a university from a range of backgrounds, he said, and those experiences affect their behavior. It's the university's job to make it clear that violence and other misbehavior won't be tolerated, he said.
“This behavior doesn't start at Langston University, or any other university, for that matter,” he said. “It has no specific origin.”
According to incident reports, the 13 aggravated assaults included domestic abuse, fights in public and, in one case, an assault on campus police officers. Eight of the assaults took place in and around campus housing buildings.
The campus put a series of security upgrades in place after a 2010 shooting at Langston's Scholars' Inn Complex dormitory, in which one man was shot and another was seriously injured after being kicked in the head.
That incident came a year after a shooting in which five people were shot at a university-sanctioned party at Langston's gymnasium.
After the second shooting, then-President JoAnn Haysbert said violence on campus came not from Langston students but from those students' friends and relatives who came to visit.
However, incident reports for nine of the 13 aggravated assaults in 2011 show on-campus addresses for suspects.
Sex crime reports rise sharply at OU, OSU
At Oklahoma's two largest universities, reports of forcible sex offenses increased significantly in 2011, crime data shows.
The University of Oklahoma saw the steepest increase, with 16 “forcible sex offenses” reported in 2011 — four times the number from the previous year.
Oklahoma State University, which had 14 forcible sex offenses reported in 2011, posted its highest total in at least the last decade.
Records show both schools have 31 reported forcible sex offenses since 2007.
At OU, the 16 reports were more than the four previous years combined.
The term “forcible sex offense” is used to describe sexual encounters where one or more of the participants is an unwilling participant, according to crime data published on the universities' websites.
Nonforcible sex offenses are crimes such as statutory rape and incest, where the participants are willing, but the relationship itself is illegal.
Police reports and information provided by OU and OSU provide few details about the alleged sex offenses, but they do reveal some trends.
At OSU, for instance, all five reported forcible sex offenses in 2011 — at least those reported on campus — included the notation “assailant known by victim.”
One case, described as a sexual assault, is still open and active, OSU police Lt. Mark Shearer said.