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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Annual Security and Fire Safety Report shows increase in stalking, decrease in domestic violence

This report, published annually by Vanderbilt University Public Safety, includes crime statistics from 2020-22.
Royce Yang
A VUPD car on Magnolia Circle, as photographed on Aug. 19, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Royce Yang)

Vanderbilt’s 2023 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report showed a significant increase in reports of motor vehicle theft, fondling and stalking and showed a decrease in reported instances of domestic and dating violence. 

In compliance with the Clery Act, Vanderbilt University Police Department annually publishes its crime statistics. The included statistics refer to reported instances within the bounds of the university, as specified by the Clery Act. This region includes on-campus buildings and property, non-campus spaces directly connected to the university’s educational purposes and public property within or immediately adjacent to campus. The statistics do not pertain to VUMC buildings and property.

“Vanderbilt University Public Safety is fully invested in the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors on campus,” a VUPS representative said. “VUPS takes the comprehensive approach of utilizing data from the Annual Security Report, crime trends and community needs to influence the safety and security posture of the department and to identify staffing needs.”

Violence Against Women Act violations

Reports of fondling tripled from nine in 2020 to 28 in 2022, and reports of stalking quadrupled in this time period from eight in 2020 to 32 in 2022. There were 24 reports of rape in 2022, down from 28 in 2021 but nearly double of 2020’s 13 reports. 

Both domestic violence and dating violence reports decreased significantly in 2022, with domestic violence cases dropping from eight in 2021 to two in 2022 and no dating violence reported in 2022, compared to one reported case in 2021. VAWA defines domestic violence as instances of felony or misdemeanor violence committed by a spouse or intimate partner of the survivor, while it defines dating violence as any act of violence committed by someone against their partner in a romantic or intimate relationship.

Project Safe Director Cara Tuttle Bell said the increase in reported crimes is not necessarily indicative of an increase in the crimes themselves.

“We have increased our stalking awareness campaigns in the past few years, which are hopefully helping students better identify those types of unhealthy relationship behaviors,” Tuttle Bell said. “These shifts across categories may also be attributed in part to the university’s ongoing awareness-raising campaigns, which encourage community members to come forward for support and report incidents.”

Tuttle Bell also explained the significance of student safety in online interactions. 

“Another factor that may be contributing to these changes is the prevalence of electronic stalking and the evolving nature of personal interactions and relationships through apps and social media,” Tuttle Bell said. “Project Safe observed an increase in both healthy and unhealthy interpersonal interactions electronically during the pandemic, a trend that persists.”

Junior Ellie Kearns, VSG’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Committee chair, said she cautions drawing too many conclusions from this report.

“Crimes of sexual and relationship violence are among the lowest reported nationally. There are several genuine reasons why a survivor may choose not to report,” Kearns said. 

Kearns said she doubts the report accurately portrays the instances of sexual and relational violence on campus.

“Survivors who report are likely not a representative sample of all survivors on campus,” Kearns said. “Racial and gender minorities have even lower reporting rates than the national average, and population subgroups, most notably Black women and transgender, gender nonbinary and gender queer individuals experience sexual and relationship violence much differently from those most likely to report — cis, straight, white women.”

Other crimes

For liquor, drug and weapon law violations, VUPD refers involved students to the Office of Student Accountability, implying initiation of disciplinary action. Two weapon law violation arrests were made in 2022, but no referrals were reported for this type of violation. 

Liquor law violation referrals significantly increased from 92 in 2021 to 129 in 2022, but no liquor law violation arrests were reported. While drug-related violation referrals decreased from 22 in 2021 to 14 in 2022, arrests for drug-related violations quadrupled from one in 2021 to four in 2022.

Aggravated assault reports increased to four in 2022 from one in 2021. Motor vehicle theft more than doubled from four reports in both 2020 and 2021 to nine reports in 2022. An Oct. 14, 2023, email from VUPS notified students of the recent theft of two vehicles after multiple vehicles were broken into.

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About the Contributors
Jacob Stoebner
Jacob Stoebner, News Editor
Jacob Stoebner ('26) is from Franklin, Tenn., and is majoring in biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering. When not writing for The Hustler, you can usually find him running, hiking in parks around Nashville or reading. He can be reached at [email protected].
Royce Yang
Royce Yang, Staff Photographer
Royce Yang (‘27) is planning to major in political science in the College of Arts and Science. He can occasionally be observed curating an extensive collection of Bach or attempting to identify helicopters around the Medical Center based on their noise. You can reach him at [email protected].
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Lived Through It
7 months ago

i wouldn’t be surprised if the increase of “stalking” cases is because vanderbilt has a very, very loose definition of stalking that is frequently twisted to punish victims for having reactions to being abused that aren’t just weeping silently in their dorm rooms or covering their bruises with makeup. not all abuse is physical, not all physical abuse leaves marks, and the vast majority of abuse happens behind closed doors, leaving no evidence at all. stalking, meanwhile, is a very easy case to “prove responsibility” because it might consist only of a singular drunk voicemail and texts from your ex asking how you are. it’s honestly an embarrassing waste of resources for a department that has so much funding yet consistently fails to even acknowledge survivors of actual sexual misconduct.