UConn chief expects fine for crime reporting

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut likely faces a fine from the federal Department of Education over its past crime reporting practices, its police chief told its board of trustees Wednesday.

Barbara O'Connor took over the police department in 2012, a year after the school was audited by the federal agency for its compliance with the Clery Act, which requires colleges to keep and report statistics on crimes in and around campus.

The school has not received the results of that audit.

But O'Connor initiated an internal review shortly after taking the job, and she told the board that review found problems in how data had been collected and reported.

She said the school was making a good-faith effort to comply with the law, but it had problems with training its security staff and failed to create a paper trail to prove it had collected the required data.

"I'm sure there will be some crimes we did not count properly, based (for example) on officers coding something as a larceny or a theft when in fact, under the clear definition of the law it was a burglary," she said after the meeting.

The internal review also found that the school's annual safety report didn't include key information about text and email warnings that must be sent out to the campus community in the case of an emergency, including what should trigger that alert system and who is responsible for issuing the warnings.

O'Connor said all the issues have been addressed with policy changes, including the hiring of a compliance officer in December. She said being able to show the school is being proactive should help it negotiate a reduced fine from the Department of Education.

She couldn't tell board members how much of a fine UConn faces. But she pointed to similar audits conducted during the same time frame at other schools had resulted in fines ranging from $80,000 to $357,500. The higher fine was given to Eastern Michigan University for not properly notifying the campus community in 2006 it was investigating the death of a student as a murder.

Yale University was fined $165,000 last year for failing to properly report four on-campus sex crimes in 2001 and 2002.

"I would be quite frankly shocked if it was as high as Eastern Michigan, because that was willful, intentional misconduct, which UConn has not engaged in here," O'Connor said. "There is no intent to hide crimes here at UConn. There is no intent to not have solid security policies here at UConn."

Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh said he was grateful the chief was being proactive in addressing the problems, and is confident in the school's campuses are safe.