A closely watched and highly anticipated bill by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) to ensure that crimes committed on college campuses are properly reported and investigated was signed into law by Governor Brown. The legislation, AB 1433, requires colleges to report certain violent crimes (like sexual assault and hate crimes), occurring on or near campus, to local law enforcement, with the permission of the victim.
The legislation comes as President Barack Obama is beginning to discuss the problem nationally. Senators Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand introduced federal legislation in July, but the bill has yet to be heard in any committees and only has a 1% chance of being enacted according to congressional watchdog govtrack.us.
Gatto introduced his legislation in January, after several California colleges were accused of covering up on-campus sexual assaults because of concerns that higher crime statistics would lead prospective students to choose elsewhere. The lack of clear laws regarding immediate campus-crime reporting, and unwillingness of campus officials to involve proper law-enforcement professionals, greatly diminishes the chance that a perpetrator is arrested and convicted. This, of course, can allow a perpetrator to strike again.
“Victims of crime should not see their chances of justice hurt, nor should perpetrators be allowed to victimize others, because a school values its public image more than victims’ rights,” said Gatto. “Simple communication between campus officials and local law enforcement will ensure a greater understanding of crime in a community and increased public safety.”
Current law regarding sharing of campus crime and investigations is muddled. The only way for concerned students, parents, or media to get these crime statistics is within a university’s once-a-year Clery Act report, required by federal law. There is no simple or timely way for local police (who keep almost all crime stats) to analyze it or to participate in the investigation of the crimes. The challenges faced by victims of on-campus crimes (as well Assemblyman Gatto’s efforts to assist these victims) were featured as the lead story in the January 6, 2014 issue of Newsweek, after several California colleges became the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Clery Act.
Since then, Gatto has been proactive in responding to community feedback to the legislation and even amended the bill to reflect suggestions that the legislation could also provide protections for people that are falsely accused of committing crimes on college campuses.
“Crimes that occur on campus should not be treated any differently than those that occur elsewhere in our community,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “This law will ensure that college administrators involve law enforcement when appropriate.”