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California: New bill targets underreporting of sexual assaults at state colleges
By Melanie Mason
SACRAMENTO -- A new bill introduced Monday would impose new reporting requirements for crimes occurring at colleges and universities, a response to reports that several California schools did not fully disclose on-campus sexual assaults.
The bill, by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles), would require colleges to report violent crimes and hate crimes on or near campus to local law enforcement for investigation, unless the victim of the crime requests that such a report not be submitted.
"Members of the public are tempted to think of universities as bubbles -- but they are not," said Gatto in an interview. "A crime that occurs there is just as harmful to society as a crime that occurs in someone’s backyard."
Gatto said his bill, AB 1433, was inspired by reports that a number of colleges in California, including Occidental College and USC, did not fully report crime statistics. Federal law requires colleges and universities to disclose to the U.S. Department of Education those statistics, which are then compiled into an annual report.
Gatto said his bill would improve on the federal law by getting the police involved when the crime is reported.
"What helps those victims is the crime actually being investigated by a competent law enforcement agency," he said.
"Colleges and universities are there to teach. They're not there to investigate crimes," he added. "The police forces clearly are experts."
Another bill introduced Monday seeks greater protections for sexual assault victims: AB 1460, by Assemblywoman Nora Campos (D-San Jose), would allow judges to grant restraining orders for victims of sex crimes, without first requiring the victim's testimony.