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BCPD Does Not Report Student’s Alleged Sexual Assault in September

Editor’s Note: It is come to our attention that there are multiple inaccuracies in this article. We are working on a correction and update, and will provide one as soon as possible.

According to Director of Safety John King, Boston College Police Department did not warn the BC community about the alleged rape of a BC student by an Uber driver in September after it received the news directly from the student because the crime was not committed in BCPD’s patrol jurisdiction.

The student was allegedly raped three times by Uber driver Luis Baez on Sept. 29. She was then dropped off at BC and went directly to BCPD to report the assault.

BCPD has warned students of assaults near campus in the past, including when a woman who had no affiliation with BC was attacked while running around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir in Jan. Reports then came out that the woman was hit by a falling tree branch and was not assaulted by another person.

Not reporting the rape is not a violation of the Clery Act, which requires universities to disclose information about crime on or near their campuses. Universities are only required to report crimes if they fall in their patrol jurisdictions.

“Institutions … must consider campus, noncampus [sic], public property, and locations within the patrol jurisdiction of the campus police or campus security department when recording crimes in the crime log,” the Clery Act reads. “[Patrol jurisdiction] refers to any property that is regularly patrolled by the campus public safety office.”

When BCPD received the report of the crime, they believed the crime took place outside of their patrol jurisdiction, somewhere else in Middlesex County, according to John King, chief of BCPD.

“The trigger is whether there is an imminent danger to people on campus property,” Frank LoMonte, a lawyer and the director of the Student Press Law Center, said in an email. “If the danger is not located on or immediately adjacent to the campus, then they aren’t legally obligated to report.”

It was at the discretion of BCPD to assess the imminence of the danger, and it believed that it was not worthwhile to report.

Several weeks later, BCPD learned the crime took place “on or near BC property,” according to King.

At this point, BCPD decided it would still not report the crime. According to the Clery Act, BCPD should have gone back and updated the crime log to reflect that the crime took place in their jurisdiction. There is no online record of the update.

“Periodically we will post security advisories when we believe the information will be helpful and informative to our community,” King said in an email. “I believe this to be consistent with the practices of most universities.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Graham Beck / Heights Staff

BCPD Should Have Reported Rape Incident

Editor’s Note: It is come to our attention that there are multiple inaccuracies in the article on which this editorial is based. We are working on a correction and update, and will provide one as soon as possible.

Several news outlets recently reported that a Boston College student was allegedly raped by an Uber driver in September. Court tapes acquired by The Boston Herald revealed that Luis Baez, driving for Uber under a fake name, raped the student three times in a parking lot and at other sites before dropping her back at her dorm on campus. The student then immediately went to the Boston College Police Department station to report the incident.

BCPD chose not to notify students on the night of the crime because, at the time, the incident was believed to have taken place within the jurisdiction of the Middlesex County Police, not BCPD. In an email to The Heights, BC Chief of Police John King, executive director of public safety and chief of BCPD, stated that “several weeks after the occurrence, it was determined that the incident likely happened on or near BC property.” Despite this realization, BCPD still chose not to report the event to the student body.

The Clery Act, passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to provide yearly reports of crime that took place on or near their campuses. The law states that schools must issue “timely warnings” and “emergency notifications” when an incident occurs that falls under the Clery Act and represents a continual threat to a school community. Because BCPD believed that the alleged assault did not take place within its jurisdiction at the time of reporting, it was not liable to report the incident. After learning that the event likely took place on or near BC’s campus, however, BCPD legally should have updated its police blotter to reflect the new information in compliance with Clery Act guidelines.

Moreover, it is undeniable that BCPD had a moral and ethical responsibility to make the student body aware of the incident as soon as possible after it was reported.

The fact that the BC community found out about the incident through court tapes and in the media, and not from its public safety organization, is deplorable. BCPD has a responsibility to make students aware of potential dangers to their safety, and the circumstances surrounding the incident make the department’s failure to release a warning especially alarming.

In particular, the crime took place in an Uber vehicle, which should have indicated that the incident warranted public reporting. This popular ride-hailing app is used by many BC students every weekend, and any danger associated with the service represents a danger to the BC community.

Although the University provides transportation on the Commonwealth Ave. buses to popular off-campus destinations, such as bars in Cleveland Circle like Agoro’s and Mary Ann’s, this service stops after 2 a.m. The T now closes at 12:30 a.m. as well. Students who want to stay out later should not have to restructure their evenings around public transportation, and often must rely on Uber to return to their dorms, houses, or apartments. This is not to mention the hundreds of student outings that take place outside the range of these buses in the city of Boston and other nearby areas.

The victim was trying to return back to campus, a situation that many BC students will find themselves in on any given Friday or Saturday. What occurred next, realistically, could have happened to any member of the student body, and therefore BCPD should have released an email or text message to students alerting them to the potential threat.

Following the crime, the alleged assailant drove the student back to BC’s campus. The fact that BCPD was made aware that a sexual predator had been on University grounds and chose not to release a warning to the BC community is not only baffling, but extremely concerning.

BCPD has reported incidents to students in the past, such as a sexual assault outside of 2000 Commonwealth Ave. and an alleged assault of a woman at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. While these events are different because they occurred within BCPD’s jurisdiction, the threat posed to student safety remains the same.

BCPD’s “Procedures for Timely Warnings of Campus Crime” states that, “It shall be the responsibility of the Director of Public Safety for the Boston College Police, when a crime on or near the campus is reported, to promptly assess the potential danger or threat it presents to the campus community, or portions thereof.” If this is truly the procedure that was used when the incident in September was reported, then BCPD and King should have come to the conclusion that the safety of the student body was in jeopardy.

In light of the information currently available, and without knowing when the perpetrator was taken into custody, perhaps the only probable reason for BCPD not to release news of the incident was fear of bad publicity. If the department did not choose to alert students on the basis that the crime was committed outside its jurisdiction, certainly it should have informed the University community after it learned that the assault was most likely carried out on or near campus.

Rape is certainly still a taboo subject in today’s society, and news of the incident most likely would have spurred alarming headlines associated with the University. But if BCPD and the University administration fail to place the safety of students above BC’s public image, then they are failing not only in their jobs, but lacking in morality as well.

Reported Sexual Assaults Rose Slightly in 2015, As Expected

Boston College reported a slight increase in sexual assaults between 2014 and 2015—from 23 to 27—according to statistics released last fall under the Clery Act, which requires the annual disclosure of certain crime statistics and campus security policies. The increase follows a rise from 11 reported assaults in 2013 to 23 reported in 2014.

Katie Dalton, director of the Women’s Center, said in an email that she believes the increase is in reporting, rather than incidences of assaults, as the Women’s Center continues outreach and education around sexual violence prevention and response. That has included the hiring in 2014 of Rachel DiBella as assistant director of the Women’s Center to work specifically on sexual violence response services.

As part of her role, DiBella has professionalized the Sexual Assault Network (SANet), the University’s confidential resource for reporting sexual misconduct, and worked on bystander intervention education—which all freshmen have received in their residence halls starting in 2012. She has also worked on a sexual violence prevention program that launched last year called the Bystander for Student Leaders presentation, which is aimed at athletes and students whose high social influence gives them the responsibility of making BC a healthy environment.

“Rachel is a trauma-informed social worker who has developed a strong reputation across campus for her work with survivors,” Dalton said.

Catherine Larabee, BC ’16, said in September 2015—around the time the crime statistics for 2014 were released—that as awareness grew of resources available to survivors, the number of reported incidents would ideally increase, and then eventually level off as bystander education became universal and was applied by students.

DiBella said in an email that BC offers an array of options in terms of reporting sexual misconduct. Privileged resources, which include professional or pastoral (religious) counselors, are not required to disclose a sexual misconduct report from a student without his or her consent, according to the University’s Student Sexual Misconduct Policy. Privileged resources may be required to report to non-BC entities for separate reasons, including if there is the threat of imminent harm to self or others.

Confidential resources include SANet and licensed clinicians in University Counseling Services, and they also are not required to disclose reports at the request of the student, barring some legal or ethical obligation to do so.

DiBella said that most University employees are considered “Responsible Employees” under Title IX, which means they are required to report what they learn about an incident to BC’s student Title IX coordinator, Senior Associate Dean of Students Carole Hughes. DiBella said that BC’s resources align with what is required under the Clery Act and Title IX.

BC does not notify the University community of a sexual assault unless BCPD determines there is an ongoing threat to campus safety, in which case it can release a safety notice, Hughes said in an email. BC only publishes total statistics, not a breakdown of off-campus vs. on-campus assaults or locations on campus.

In December, The Boston Globe published a review of sexual assault reports at area universities that found that reporting has become more common at BC and other schools. On its Charles River campus, Boston University reported 12 assaults in 2014 and 17 in 2015, according to its Clery Act disclosures. Harvard University reported 54 assaults in 2015, up from 43 in 2014 and 40 in 2013, according to its disclosures.