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    Comptroller Audit Says University Underreported Crimes in 2006

    Stony Brook University is one of 19 SUNY schools that have either underreported or incorrectly classified crimes on campus in 2006, according to an audit by the New York State comptroller’s office.

    Some Stony Brook officials, however, blame classification discrepancies for the confusion.

    The audit, released on Wednesday, determined which schools have been complying with the federal Clery Act, a law requiring colleges to publicly release crime and security information annually.

    In addition to examining all SUNY schools, the comptroller’s office selected Stony Brook, New Paltz, Delhi and the University at Buffalo randomly to undergo a thorough inspection.

    Auditors found violations at all four schools including 17 drug offenses not reported at the University at Buffalo and 12 crimes, including two sexual assaults and two weapons charges not accurately recorded at Delhi.

    Auditors found discrepancies between what the schools reported to the Department of Education for crimes and violations and what they listed in the annual security reports at many campuses.

    The audit also found Stony Brook University police reports were “lacking sufficient detail to determine the elements of the specific crime.”

    SUNY Farmingdale and SUNY Old Westbury both received three violations compared with Stony Brook’s 18. Both schools, which have a significantly smaller campus population, did not receive visits by auditors.

    “Stony Brook underreported nearly 50 percent of crimes occurring on campus in 2006,” the audit said. “In total, 56 of 117 incidents were not reported to [the Department of Education,] including 33 burglaries which were routinely classified by campus police as larcenies.”

    In total, the audit found discrepancies at 19 of the 29 SUNY schools reviewed.

    “We were a little disturbed by the audit,” said Douglas Little, interim chief of Police. Little went on to say every crime and incident on campus is “documented and it is followed up on.”

    Stony Brook underreported 33 burglaries, nine drug arrests, four motor vehicle thefts, five forcible sexual offenses, one arson, two crimes on campus involving illegal weapons possession, one robbery and one liquor-related arrest, according to the report.

    But according to Little, some of the confusion lies in the classifications. The 33 burglaries identified by the audit were classified as larcenies by campus police, which do not have to be reported. For a crime to be classified as a burglary, police must be able to determine if a person lawfully entered the area or not. If this could not be determined, it was classified as a larceny.

    The underreported arson on campus involved a slightly burned teddy bear outside the student union building. “Stony Brook did not initially classify this as arson, but subsequently did so based on the recommendations of the auditors,” said James R. Van Voorst, SUNY interim vice chancellor for Finance and Business, in a letter written to the comptroller’s office last month. “There was never any intention to deceive in any way,” said Little.

    The university also did not have access to the updated guidelines. Stony Brook did not receive the latest handbook stating the guidelines for the Clery Act, which was updated in 2005, until 2007. The audit focused on 2006.

    At the time of the audit’s release, no SUNY school was in jeopardy of receiving a fine. For “substantial misrepresentation,” universities can receive fines of up to $27,500 per violation from the The Department of Education.

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