Central Maine colleges and universities reported few crimes on campus in 2017, though liquor law violations and sex offenses remain problems, according to recently released crime statistics.

The number of liquor law violations that led to disciplinary action at Colby College, Thomas College and the University of Maine at Farmington in 2017 were consistent with years past, though the number of arrests dropped at Colby and increased at UMF.

There was just one arrest related to liquor law violations on Colby’s campus in 2017, down from 17 in 2016 and 29 in 2015, according to the school’s annual security report.

Meanwhile, at UMF, there were no arrests for liquor law violations on campus, but 16 arrests were made on nearby public property in 2017, up from two in 2016.

According to law, colleges and universities that receive federal funding must make public their annual security reports by Oct. 1 of each year.

The reports include information about crimes reported on campus, in residence halls and on nearby public property, as well as information about hate crimes, disciplinary action and fire safety.

At UMF, Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Brock Caton, responding by email, attributed the increase in liquor law arrests on public property near campus to underage drinking patrols and other programs participated in by the Farmington Police Department. UMF enrolls about 1,600 undergraduates, about 890 of whom live on campus.

Meanwhile, Colby College enrolls about 2,000 students, almost all of whom live on campus. Eighty liquor law violations were reported in 2017, the same number as in 2016.

Colby spokeswoman Ruth Jackson attributed the drop in arrests for liquor law violations to the fact there were no incidents in 2017 that resulted in several students being cited at one time.

She also referenced in an email legislation passed in 2015 that prevents underage people who are transported by ambulance or who make a 911 call to report illness from extreme drinking from being charged.

“My understanding is that the intention behind this was to eliminate a potential deterrent for calling 911 to help an underage person who could be in danger,” Jackson said.

Thomas College, which has an enrollment of just under 1,000 students, about half of whom live on campus, had 44 liquor law violations on campus in 2017 but no arrests.

Unity College reported seven liquor law violations in 2017 and no arrests, down from 28 liquor law violations in 2016. The college has an enrollment of about 700 students, about 500 of whom live on campus.

Ray Phinney, dean of students and Title IX coordinator at Unity, said the college has noticed a change in culture on campus in recent years, with fewer students choosing to drink. In past years, he said students 21 and up used to be able to buy beer on campus at the student center, but it wasn’t selling, so the college decided this summer to do away with beer at the student center. Now alcohol is available for sale only at catered events.

“Students are coming to these events and they’re not partaking in alcohol,” Phinney said. “They’re making smart decisions and choices and enjoying themselves without a buzz.”

One reason for the cultural shift might be a large number of students who are interested in law enforcement careers and are choosing not to drink, he said. In January 2017, Unity started bringing working law enforcement officers in to new student orientations to talk about the effect their school records and behavior could have on their careers.

“A lot of students, because of the majors we have on campus, are trying to be good citizens and role models,” Phinney said. “That has permeated from conservation law enforcement to other degrees as well. If one group of students finds it’s not cool to drink, others follow that trend.”

Overall, few crimes were reported on campuses in central Maine, although several of the colleges did report instances of rape or other sex offenses.

At Colby, seven rapes were reported in 2017 and four instances of nonconsensual fondling. UMF reported five rapes, while Unity College reported two instances of rape and four instances of fondling on campus. No sex offenses were reported at Thomas College.

The reporting requirements mandate that colleges include all reported incidents in their statistics, regardless of whether they are found to meet the criteria of a sexual assault or what the outcome of an investigation is, Caton said. The incidents do not necessarily take place in the year in which they are reported.

“When speaking to the students, I stress strength in numbers,” Caton said. “Stranger violence is rare, but I tell them to use the buddy system, have their cellphones on them at all times and let their roommates/friends know where they are going and when they will be back.

“I also stress to enjoy the full college/university experience, avoid using drugs or alcohol, but if they find themselves in a situation where there is drugs or alcohol, to be a good bystander and assist other students if they are in need of assistance.”

At Unity College, Phinney said a new student group, Student Supporters of Sexual Assault Survivors, and new programming last year that included a panel discussion by sexual assault survivors, have helped increase educational efforts around the issue on campus.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s something college campuses will always face,” Phinney said. “As students arrive on campus in a new environment, there’s always miscommunication that happens. Students find themselves in new situations, and it’s not always easy to navigate.”

The University of Maine at Augusta, a commuter school that does not offer on-campus housing, did not report any crime on campus at all in 2017.

As part of the reporting, colleges also are required to disclose hate crimes and fire safety.

Colby reported one case of intimidation based on religion in 2017. Unity College reported one case of assault based on race and three instances of intimidation based on gender.

None of the schools reported any fires.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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