Gatto, Frutos Team Up to Battle Campus Crime

Burbank Assemblyman Mike Gatto

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Burbank) introduced legislation this week to ensure that crimes committed on college campuses are properly reported and investigated thanks to the help and insight of Burbank Councilman Bob Frutos. The legislation, AB 1433, would require colleges to report certain crimes occurring on or near campus to local law enforcement to investigate, if the victim does not request anonymity.

Councilman Frutos, a 28 year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, sat down for lunch with Gatto last fall at the Burbank Eatery on San Fernando Road. They were discussing a host of issues when the subject of campus crime and public safety arose. Frutos shared his perspective on the underreporting of rapes and other sexual assaults on college campuses, something that has been in the news often.

“Bob Frutos is not just a Councilmember, he’s a veteran cop, someone who has investigated criminal activity for nearly three decades,” said Gatto. “His insight into the issue and the need for campus crimes to be adequately reported and investigated was a catalyst for this bill. Councilman Frutos opened my eyes to this growing problem on a local and statewide level. ”

The legislation comes after several California colleges have been accused of covering-up on-campus sexual assaults because of concerns that higher crime statistics would lead prospective students to choose elsewhere. The unwillingness of campus officials to involve proper non-campus 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. “Colleges should focus on teaching, and leave the investigation of crimes to the professionals — local police and sheriffs.”

Two southern California colleges are currently the subject of a federal investigation for their handling of on-campus sexual assaults and other violent crimes. In addition to the federal investigation, five U.S. campuses, including three in California, are the subject of a federal lawsuit alleging violations of Title IX and the Clery Act. The Clery Act is the federal law that requires colleges and universities to disclose (once a year, in an annual report) information about crimes that happen on or near campuses.

In addition to failing to report crimes, several California colleges have also been criticized for failing to notice signs of dangerous or abusive criminal activity. At one state university, the administration admittedly failed to recognize the brutal, racially based abuse of a seventeen-year-old African-American student by his roommates. The abuse was discovered only after the young man was allegedly held captive in his room with a bicycle lock chained around his neck.

“Crimes that occur on campus should not be treated any differently than those that occur elsewhere in our community,” said Assemblyman Gatto. “California law needs to make sure that college administrators involve law enforcement when appropriate.”