The Colorado Mountain College campus in Steamboat Springs is the safest in the system, according to an annual report. Within that safe atmosphere, however, students are more often caught for alcohol and drug violations than their brethren at the other two residential campuses in the CMC system.
Federal law mandates that all colleges and universities that receive financial assistance from Washington, D.C., report crime statistics every fall. The report lists incidents from the previous three academic years.
Of the seven liquor law and three illegal drug violations reported during the 1999-2000 school year by CMC, all occurred at the Alpine campus in Steamboat Springs.
Joe Marquez, spokesman for CMC, attributed the Alpine campus numbers to the fact the college is in a world-renowned resort.
"It could be that the Alpine campus is attracting a recreational type of student who just loves to ski and have a good time," Marquez said.
CMC student Jenn Reno agreed with that assessment.
"I can't really think of why the (drug and liquor) reports would be so much higher here, except that there's that whole ski-bum idea of life partying all the time," she said.
In addition to Steamboat Springs, CMC operates residential campuses in Glenwood Springs and Leadville.
Tony Skusevich, coordinator of Student Life at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, also sees a connection between the resort lifestyle and the higher alcohol and drug violations here.
"I used to work at Mesa State, and moved there from the Midwest," he said. "I think, generally speaking, that the schools in Colorado see more drug traffic and substance abuse, and that a wider variety of drugs are more easily accessible here. Maybe it's because of the resorts."
Crime statistics for 1997 through spring of 2000 show that the total number of drug and alcohol violations at CMC schools is dropping overall, but increasing in Steamboat Springs.
"The kids who drink, drink every night, and I'm sure they do all that other stuff, too," said CMC student Greg Howell, who grew up in Fort Collins. "It's because there's nothing to do here at night. But really it's safe here. The crime reports aren't really about students doing anything wrong while under the influence, they're just about kids getting busted."
Colin Martin, a freshman from Dallas, believes students are doing drugs and drinking everywhere. The fact that the crime statistics for the Alpine campus are higher than other CMC campuses only means the local students are getting caught, he said.
Compared to larger cities and schools, the CMC campuses have low incidents of drug and alcohol offenses. There also are fewer reports of sex offenses, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and weapons possessions.
During the three years from 1997 through 2000, no serious crimes were reported on the Alpine campus, and very few were reported on the other two campuses. The Spring Valley campus in Carbondale, for example, had the highest incidents of burglaries: three out of seven total in the last three years. That compares favorably, both in terms of number of incidents and per capita rate, to other higher education institutions in Colorado.
Schools also keep track of the number of reported homicides, rapes and robberies. None of those types of crimes were reported on CMC campuses in the last three years.
CMC student Colin Martin said students on other campuses "just aren't getting caught."
Crime statistics can both say a lot and not enough about a university, according to information from Colorado State University regarding its report.
"On one hand, crime statistics tell us what has been reported to officials. On the other hand, it may or may not be representative of what is actually occurring. Crime, and specifically violent crime, is said to occur on most campuses in the United States," the report stated.
That is partly why relative comparisons of crime reports can be helpful, Marquez pointed out.
Marquez and Skusevich agreed that, relatively speaking, the CMC campuses are safe places.
Reno said she doesn't feel threatened walking around campus alone even at night.
"Then again," she added, "it's a small campus."
One of the interesting trends seen in the CMC statistics is that reports of serious crime dropped off significantly between the 1998-'99 school year and last year. The total number of serious crimes went from 10 to three. Skusevich said CMC officials work hard to make college safe for students
"Even the campus in Steamboat has more staff for safety and security than the other CMC campuses," Skusevich said. "The changes we made in hiring extra security staff were done so simply because of crime statistics. It's only part of the reason. The rest of the reason involves our effort to create an environment where students can be academically successful."
All the CMC campuses have a "two-strike" drinking policy and a zero-tolerance drug policy in the resident halls.
"Then they make their own choices," Skusevich said. "You can't be too sure about the thought processes of some 18- and 19-year-olds. Some of them are visual learners they sit back and wait to see what happens when other people do it first."
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