Incidents of rape jump at CMU

Students leaving class at Colorado Mesa University pass one of 10 blue emergency phones installed around the campus, where sexual assaults jumped from zero in 2010 to five in 2011. A Sexual Assault Response Team of staff members is being trained to counsel victimson medical, legal and emotional issues.

The number of forcible sex offenses reported on Colorado Mesa University’s main campus jumped from zero in 2009 and 2010 to five in 2011, according to the campus’ most recent security and fire safety report.

The annual report, released with updated numbers last month, tracks reports of criminal behavior, violations handled by the university and arrests.

All five of the sex offenses reported in 2011 allegedly occurred on campus and four specifically were reported to have occurred in CMU residence halls.

No sex offenses were reported on campus in 2009 or 2010, although one offense was reported in 2009 in an off-campus building used or owned by the university and another offense was reported in 2010 on public property adjacent to campus or being used by the university.

John Marshall, CMU vice president for student services, said the forcible sex offense count represents reports of assaults, not convictions for sex offenses. Marshall said it’s his understanding all five reports last year resulted in police being neither able to confirm nor deny the offenses occurred, but he said the increase is “troubling in any context.”

As a result, the school invited national speaker Mike Domitrz of the Date Safe Project to speak about sexual consent and healthy relationships to incoming freshmen and athletes in August. The university also launched a Sexual Assault Response Team of Colorado Mesa staff members who are being trained to counsel victims of sexual assault about medical, legal and emotional steps to take after an assault.

“It provides a more encapsulating support system” for those students, Marshall said.

Also new this fall are study-intensive floors with more quiet time in Monument, Tolman and Grand Mesa halls and North Avenue Student Housing, plus wellness housing throughout Monument, Albers and Elm halls.

Students who decided to live in Monument, Albers, or Elm this year had to agree to live a wellness-based lifestyle, which means no drinking or smoking. Students campuswide cannot drink or smoke in any residence hall, but they can do those things off-site and return to their rooms if they are of legal age.

Marshall said the university plans to expand the number of special-focus floors next fall to continue to encourage a healthier, academics-based environment. Marshall said he is pleased the number of liquor law violations handled by campus officials decreased from 321 in 2010 to 308 in 2011. Drug violations handled by the school inched up from 57 in 2010 to 58 in 2011. Meanwhile, enrollment increased by 10 percent over that time. Marshall said seeing drug and alcohol violations drop or stay flat between 2010 and 2011 is “very encouraging.”

Drug, alcohol and weapons violations handled on-campus involve offenses detected and reported by resident assistants. Campus officials speak with each student and decide whether the report was founded and, if so, whether the student should face a punishment ranging from picking up trash to getting kicked out of school or if the student should be assigned an educational task, such as completing an online alcohol education course.

Arrests tracked on campus are incidents that involve Grand Junction police officers or other law enforcement and can lead to punishment through the courts system.

Five Grand Junction police officers are assigned to the campus and occasionally patrol residence halls, according to Marshall. The difference between who gets a citation and who gets a university disciplinary referral can be as simple as whether a police officer or a resident assistant is performing a check and smells marijuana in a bedroom.

While the number of on-campus drug and alcohol incidents decreased year-over-year in 2011, drug violation arrests on campus increased to 53 arrests in 2011 compared to 39 in 2010 and 38 in 2009. On-campus liquor violation arrests were more stable, climbing from 26 in 2009 to 30 in 2010 before dipping to 29 arrests in 2011.

Grand Junction Police Department spokeswoman Kate Porras said there hasn’t been much change in liquor arrests, but police have been taking a proactive approach to alcohol and drug prevention and reporting. Porras said campus officers have been vocal about helping students know how to report crimes and have encouraged students not to feel afraid to report crimes as well as helping with awareness campaigns.

“There was a slight increase in drug violations and we take those seriously, especially on campus,” Porras said. “We’re focused on being visible if something does happen.”

The 2012 safety report also reports data for Western Colorado Community College and CMU’s Montrose campus. WCCC reported only one violation this year, an illegal weapons arrest on campus, and Montrose had no violations to report.can do those things off-site and return to their rooms if they are of legal age.


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