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Old Main on the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Sexual assault reports on Northern Arizona University’s campus have reached a new high for the third year in a row, according to this year’s Clery Report.

The reports of sexual assaults, categorized in the report as rape, increased 34 percent from 23 assaults in 2016 to 31 assaults in 2017. Out of the 31 reported on-campus sexual assaults this year, 25 of them happened in residence halls. The 2018 Clery Report only covers reported crime statistics from 2017.

According to Joe Tritschler, a community relations officer for the Northern Arizona University Police Department, they believe there are a few reasons the numbers have increased.

“I think number one, there’s obviously the population on the campus is increasing,” Tritschler said. “But I think more importantly the word is getting out about reporting.”

Tritschler said that police statistics “don’t come anywhere close” to the rate people are sexually assaulted.

In attempt to shift sexual-assault survivors’ tendencies, university police are allowing other groups in the community to take on the duty of reporting.

Kirk Fitch, director of Clery compliance, said that the police department only gets a third of the cases reported directly to them. Instead, they depend on resources like resident assistants in the dormitories or groups like Campus Health Services or Victim Witness Services.

“RAs and [Resident Hall Directors] in each hall have a robust training program where they speak to the members that live on their floor about all the services that are available,” Fitch said. “In addition to posters, information is available online. There’s a lot of resources out there that are available.”

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Freshmen are the most at-risk community for on-campus sexual assaults, simply because they are the largest group housed on campus. This year alone, the university housed 90 percent of the 7,340 freshman in dorms. Freshmen account for 70 percent of the 10,400 available beds.

Fitch pointed out that because the university houses so many students and freshmen, the number of reported sexual assaults is going to be higher than other state universities.

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“Of the three universities, we have the largest amount of students living on campus,” Fitch said. “Typically these incidents are acquaintance incidents. The fact is we have a very large, young, freshman-oriented housing that has our largest majority of students coming in the fall.”

NAU’s sexual assault count is higher than Arizona State University and University of Arizona. ASU reported a total of 12 sexual assaults on campus for 2017; UA reported 22 sexual assaults.

While NAU’s total class size is increasing year by year, there isn’t a similar line that can be drawn between the size of enrollment and the amount of reports.

In fall 2017, the amount of total students at the Flagstaff campus increased by 606 students, or 2.7 percent, from the previous year. That number is much smaller than the 34 percent increase in sexual assaults that happened over the same time frame.

The other statistics that increased last year were on-campus drug violations, both arrests and referrals. Drug referrals increased from 226 to 268 from 2016 to 2017. Drug arrests severely shot up from 75 to 123 from 2016 to 2017.

Tritschler explained that for first-time cannabis violations or for people with medical cards, they tend to refer students to the Office of Student Life. However, a second violation will result in arrest in addition to a referral.

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Scott Buffon can be reached at sbuffon@azdailysun.com, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.

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