Campus drug violations decrease by nearly half in 2019 according to annual safety report

Reported drug violations that occurred on Central Michigan University's campus decreased by almost 38 percent from in the 2019 academic year, according to the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report.

Released on Dec. 29, 2020, the annual report outlines crime statistics for the past three years as well as other information about police and crime prevention. This year's report was delayed a few months due to the impact of COVID-19.

Drug violations referred for disciplinary action decreased from 117 incidents in 2018 to 73 in 2019. Violations are primarily reported by Residence Life or the Office of Student Conduct and do not involve police.

Recreational marijuana was made legal in December 2018 with the passage of Proposal 1, changing marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. CMU Police Department Lt. Cameron Wassman said the decrease is a direct result of new laws.

"A couple of years ago, (the state of Michigan) decriminalized a first-offense, Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP), so those violations would no longer count as an arrest," he said. "And then, in essence, the same thing happened last year with drugs." 

The change is also reflected in the number of drug law arrests. In 2019, CMUPD reported no drug law arrests in contrast to the 31 arrests made the prior year.  

CMUPD Lt. Michael Sienkiewicz said decriminalization has changed on-campus response to marijuana possession.

"(In the past) if there was marijuana in a room, Residence Life would usually call us, and we would go over there and work through it together," Sienkiewicz said. "Now, a lot of the hall directors are able to just handle (the complaint) themselves more like alcohol."

Liquor violations have continued to decrease after first-offense MIPs were reduced from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction in 2018. 

Reported liquor law violations that were referred for disciplinary action decreased from 514 in 2018 to 354 in 2019.

In addition to liquor and drug violations, the annual report included statistics about other on-campus crimes, including burglary and sexual misconduct.  

Between 2018 and 2019, reports of rape decreased by 41 percent, from 12 to 7 reports - countering the previous report's spike. Reports of domestic violence also decreased by approximately 40 percent from 15 in 2018 to 9 in 2019. 

However, reports of stalking nearly tripled, increasing from 3 incidents in 2018 to 13 in 2019. 

Despite the changes, Wassman said reports of sexual misconduct can vary but are generally "within range" of previous years. 

Wassman said although there are no clear trends, CMUPD encourages people to come forward as much as possible.

"Despite what these numbers say, there's a whole bunch of stuff that goes on that nobody even knows about," Wassman said. "But that's one of the big things, making sure these types of (incidents) get reported so that the appropriate people can deal with them."

Originally signed in 1990, the "Clery Act" is a federal statute that requires all colleges and universities receiving federal aid to annually record and publish a comprehensive list of campus crime statistics. Often more than 200 pages long, the annual reports also feature detailed instructions for safety procedures on campus, as well as fire safety reports.