Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) from Student Journalists

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the Clery Act for student journalists. We receive requests regularly from campus newspapers and media outlets to not only determine if their institution is adhering to the law’s requirements but also if the law can be further leveraged to support a current issue or concern. 

The Clery Act is a vital piece of legislation that directly impacts the safety and security of college and university campuses across the United States, and you can learn more about the general aspects of the law in our regular FAQ. There you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions like: 

  • What is the Clery Act?
  • Who on campus is required to report Clery Act crimes?
  • What are reportable crimes under the Clery Act?
  • What is an annual security report? 
  • Where can I find crime statistics for an institution?
  • What are timely warnings & emergency notifications?
  • What happens if an institution is not compliant with the Clery Act? 

and a lot more.

For student journalists, it's essential to understand the law and its implications for your campus communities. Whether you're investigating campus crime statistics, holding your institution accountable for compliance, or advocating for stronger safety measures, this resource is designed to equip you with the knowledge and tools needed to navigate the complexities of the Clery Act effectively.

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Annual Security Reports

How is my institution required to share its annual security report (ASR)?

Institutions of higher education must publish its ASR each year by October 1 and must inform current students and employees about its availability. Institutions also must make the ASR available to prospective students and employees. 

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How many years of data should be included in an ASR?

An ASR should contain the three previous calendar years’ worth of Clery Act crime statistics.  For example, if an ASR is published on or before October 1, 2024 it should contain Clery Act crime statistics for the calendar years of 2023, 2022, and 2021. 

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How can I use the ASR as a tool for investigating and reporting on campus safety issues?

The ASR contains the three previous calendar years’ worth of Clery Act crime statistics which are a record of incidents that occurred within an institution’s Clery Act geography, that were reported to a campus security authority (CSA) and aligned with the definition of a Clery Act crime. It’s important to remember that these statistics just represent crimes reported and not necessarily outcomes of a court, coroner, or jury. Additionally, they do not indicate whether those who reported chose to pursue a criminal investigation or campus disciplinary process. Analyze the crime statistics within an ASR to gain a more accurate picture of the type of crime that is being reported as occurring within or surrounding the campus. One way to apply that information is to compare it to prevalence rate data that is included as part of a campus climate survey to see if rates of reported behaviors differ and in what ways.  

An ASR also contains statements of policy (summaries of current, existing policies and procedures) about various aspects of campus safety. Review the ASR to find information about your institution’s current policies for issuing timely warnings or emergency notification, preventing, responding to, and holding disciplinary procedures for dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, and policies regarding the possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs and alcohol, among other things.

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Daily Crime Log

How frequently must institutions update their daily crime logs?

Institutions must maintain a daily crime log reflecting the past 60 days. A crime that occurs within the institution’s Clery geography (which, for these purposes, includes both Clery Act defined geography and the institution’s patrol jurisdiction) must be added to the daily crime log within two business days. Any portion of the log older than 60 days must be made available within two business days of a request. 

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Are there any exemptions for reporting certain crimes in the daily crime log?

All reported crimes occurring within the patrol jurisdiction should be added to the daily crime log; however, an institution may temporarily withhold information from being added if there is clear  and convincing evidence that the release of information would:

  • jeopardize an ongoing investigation; 
  • jeopardize the safety of an individual; 
  • cause a suspect to flee or evade detection; or 
  • result in the destruction of evidence.

Once any of these conditions is no longer present the information must be added to the daily crime log. The Department of Education recommends that campuses without police departments (e.g. public safety or security departments) consult with local law enforcement with regard to withholding crime log information.

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How do colleges and universities typically make their daily crime logs accessible to students and staff?

Daily crime logs can be made accessible through a variety of methods – including but not limited to hard copy printouts in binders at the front entrance of a public safety or campus police department, or on the homepage of a campus safety department’s website. If you do not know where your daily crime log is published or how to access it you can call your campus public safety or police department for that information.

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What recourse do students have if they believe information in the daily crime log is inaccurate or incomplete?

The first step would be to ask a representative of the campus safety or police department why a particular incident is not listed on the daily crime log to try to understand the situation better. 

If the answer received does not make sense or you know it to be false, we’d first recommend reaching out to whoever is responsible for Clery Act compliance at your institution. If speaking to them does not resolve the issue, or if that role does not exist, you can always email the Department of Education at [email protected] to file a complaint against your institution if you have reason to believe the daily crime log is incomplete or inaccurate.

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What are the reporting requirements regarding hate crimes under the Clery Act?

Hate crimes under the Clery Act are defined as a criminal offense motivated, in whole or in part, by a bias on the part of the perpetrator. The Clery Act uses hate crime reporting guidelines issued by the FBI to determine if a reported incident contains evidence that the underlying crime itself was motivated by bias. If there is no evidence that the reason the crime was committed was due to bias on the part of the perpetrator, the incident cannot be counted as a hate crime for Clery Act crime statistics purposes; however, the actions might still represent a potential violation of institutional policy. 

You can learn more about hate crimes with our free resource, Explaining Hate Crimes under the Clery Act.

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Timely Warnings

What qualifies as an event that warrants a timely warning under the Clery Act?

At a minimum, institutions of higher education must issue a timely warning for a Clery Act crime that occurs within Clery geography, is reported to a CSA, and is determined to pose a serious or ongoing threat to the campus community. Institutions can issue timely warnings for circumstances broader than this but must do so consistently and represent that in policy.

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How quickly must my institution issue a timely warning after an incident occurs?

The Clery Act does not prescribe a specific amount of time within which a timely warning must be issued once a report is received that meets the minimum criteria listed above. However, the law does state that a timely warning must be issued “as soon as pertinent information is available” that demonstrates there is a serious or ongoing threat. The word “timely” refers to how soon the warning should be issued once that information is known, and does not refer to the timeliness of a report being made in relation to the occurrence of an incident. 

A timely warning could be issued even if the incident occurred in the past, if the reported information confirmed a pattern of behavior in the present that the institution determined represents a serious or ongoing threat. A serious or ongoing threat is determined through evaluating details of the report made and the context of the reported incident. 

For example, a single incidence of rape could result in the issuance of a timely warning if the report met the institution’s criteria for issuing timely warnings. Also, if a rape is reported today that occurred months ago and affirms a pattern of behavior by the same individual that was not previously identified, it may be determined that a timely warning is warranted, because a pattern of behavior has now been established. Therefore, as soon as information is available that indicates there is a serious or ongoing threat, the timely warning must be issued.

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What methods are typically used by institutions to communicate timely warnings to students and staff?

Timely warnings must reach the entire campus community therefore they should be issued through a variety of methods. Campuses commonly send emails, issue texts, put up banner messages on their websites, and/or broadcast on campus television screens. Some campuses might issue printed posters or flyers as well.

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Are there any exceptions to the requirement to issue timely warnings?

Technically, no; if the conditions of a Clery crime, occurring within Clery geography, reported to a CSA, and determined to pose a serious or ongoing threat, are met, a campus must issue a timely warning.

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What constitutes a serious or ongoing threat? 

This is a subjective determination made by a campus influenced by guidance from the Department of Education. Historically, the Department has provided overt examples of what would constitute a serious or ongoing threat:

  • A particularly violent or egregious initial act
  • Threats made by the perpetrator to act again or that others are at risk
  • A known perpetrator not yet in custody

But these are just to provide some ideas. Campuses often use some sort of rubric or matrix to determine if the details of a particular incident meet criteria for being considered serious or ongoing. We encourage you to ask your public safety or police department if they use one, and if so, if you can see it to better understand how they make determinations about when an incident reaches this threshold.

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Clery Geography

What factors determine the geographic boundaries for Clery Act reporting on a college or university campus?

The Clery Act defines four categories of geography for which campuses must maintain crime statistics. Those definitions, which you can learn more about in our FAQ, determine how a campus categorizes its buildings and property for Clery reporting purposes. Clery Act crime statistics are maintained just for those four geographic categories — i.e., if a Clery Act crime occurs outside of Clery Act geography it will not be represented within an institution’s Clery Act crime statistics.

Many campuses maintain internal- or external-facing maps that outline its buildings and properties according to their Clery Act geography designation – ask to see this map or look for it in your ASR to gain a better understanding of the locations for which your institution is obligated to report out Clery Act crimes.

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How does Clery Geography impact the issuance of timely warnings and the maintenance of daily crime logs?

At a minimum. timely warnings must be issued for Clery Act crimes occurring within Clery geography, reported to a CSA, and that constitute a serious or ongoing threat. 

The daily crime log must contain all crimes reported to the campus’ public safety or police department that occurred within its patrol jurisdiction, which might be broader than but should still include, its Clery geography. 

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Further Exploration

What resources are available for students who have questions or concerns about Clery Act compliance on their campus?

Campuses must not only publish their Clery Act crime statistics each year within their ASR but also must submit those statistics directly to the Department of Education via an online survey. This information is open to the public so anyone can review any institution’s Clery Act crime statistics via this website:

Additionally, the Department of Education regularly audits, or conducts program reviews, of campus’ compliance with the Clery Act and publishes the findings for public review. You can find all publicly available Clery Act Final Program Review Determinations (FPRDs) at this website:

Additionally, please visit Clery Center’s resource library for a wide variety of free materials on how to understand and implement the Clery Act. 

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What steps can students take to advocate for stronger implementation and enforcement of the Clery Act on their campus?

  • Ask questions: Reach out to your institution’s Clery Act Coordinator or the person identified as being responsible for Clery Act compliance to better understand how your institution addresses these requirements. 
  • Partner with your student government: If you identify an area that is not being addressed and could be improved, leverage their influence and responsibility to initiate actions to initiate change.
  • Volunteer: Students can offerto be a reader for your institution’s annual security report each summer and provide feedback on its accessibility and ease of understanding. 
  • Attend a campus security authority training: This can help youto understand what CSAs are required to do and to provide feedback on how they can better support the student community in their role at the institution. 
  • Review Clery Act-required materials: Read the daily crime log, timely warnings issued, and awareness campaigns published to describe reporting responsibilities and let the creators know if the information being shared is clearly communicated and accurate to the average student experience at your institution. 
  • Share your concerns: If you’ve identified what you believe to be areas of noncompliance with the law, reach out to the appropriate parties — your school’s Clery Act Coordinator, police or public safety department, and/or Dean of Students. You can also presentyour concerns at open Cabinet or Board of Directors meetings, if those exist at your institution.
  • File a complaint: If you have raised concerns about gaps in compliance and they go unaddressed, you can file a complaint directly to the Department of Education by emailing [email protected]

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Additional Resources: