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Many campus crime reports found inaccurate

Campus crime is being inaccurately reported at two-thirds of the colleges in the State University of New York system, according to a new audit from the state comptroller's office.

Nineteen of the 28 campuses audited for 2006 reported crime statistics to the federal government that were different than their own internal records, State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said Wednesday at a press conference in Buffalo.

In some cases, the inconsistencies were minor, but others were substantial, he said.

"Parents and students have a right to know, and colleges have a responsibility to report the full story," DiNapoli said at the Mahoney State Office Building in downtown Buffalo. "Not telling the full story on crime won't make crime disappear."

The University at Buffalo -- which reported 227 crimes in 2006 -- failed to report 20 incidents to the Department of Education, 17 of them drug offenses, according to the comptroller's report.

UB also underreported by 75 the more than 1,300 disciplinary actions taken against students for drug, alcohol and weapons violations.

UB welcomed the audit, but the discrepancies were honest errors, said spokesman John Della Contrada.

"There never was any attempt by the university to deliberately underreport crimes or manipulate data," Della Contrada said. "The university has taken immediate steps to correct the reporting errors."

DiNapoli acknowledged there's confusion at colleges about the complex federal reporting requirements and that some campus police hadn't been trained on the matter for years.

Under the federal Cleary Act, colleges and universities are required each year to disclose campus crime statistics and safety polices to the Department of Education. The data are made available online at www.ope.ed.gov.

There were "minor" issues at Buffalo State College, while Fredonia State College reported no non-forcible sexual offenses even though its internal records showed two, auditors said.

Stony Brook University on Long Island was one of the biggest offenders, underreporting nearly 50 percent of crimes on campus in 2006, the audit showed.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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