Saddleback College and the O.C. Sheriff’s Department work together to keep the campus safe for students and staff.

The college campus is currently closed but campus security continues to monitor activity throughout the day. Alyssa Gervacio/Lariat

The college released its 2019 Annual Safety & Security report, which includes collecting campus-related incidents reported on stalking, burglary, robbery and domestic violence. Mike Betzler, Saddleback’s police department lieutenant, has a significant role in the comprehensive effort to provide a safe and secure campus for students, faculty and staff.

The Annual Safety and Security report’s primary purpose is to provide annual statistical disclosure required under Clery, which also requires the college to collect, classify and count crime reports and statistics. 

The Higher Education Act of 1965 was amended to include the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990. In 1998, the act was renamed the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime in memory of Jeanne Clery, a university student who was killed in her dorm in 1986. The Clery Act requires colleges to submit crime statistics to the Department of Education and publish an annual security report.

In 2019, there were three arrests on campus, seven incidents of stalking, four incidents of burglary, one robbery and one incident of domestic violence. The Clery Act defines these incidents on pages 45-47 in the report.

“I think it’s important to understand that if you report a violation that meets Clery standards, we have to report that,” Betzler said. “Even if later on we are able to determine that these instances did not happen, we still have to include the statistic and explain why.”

Under the number of incidents for selected Clery categories, there have been 13 stalking instances from 2017 to 2019, of which seven of them happened during the latter. 

“These stalking incidences except for two of them did not involve criminal acts,” Betzler said. “Although it meets the definition for stalking from the Clery definition, it does not meet the definition of criminal stalking in the state of California.”

The difference between the definitions of the Clery Act and the state of California Penal Code 646.9 PC is that the Clery Act broadly states engagement that would cause an individual to fear for their safety or the safety of others; or if they suffer from substantial emotional distress. The CA Penal Code defines stalking as malicious harassment involving a credible threat.

“It has to meet a certain standard, and so each crime has certain elements to it, and anytime that we allege a crime that requires a report, we have to somehow make a determination and identify each one of those elements as part of our report, and so none of these instances rose to the level of criminal stalking,” Betzler said.

The two incidents that involved stalking on campus include vandalism, a broken mirror on a car, and the second incident involved battery or physical touching. Still, the victim did not pursue criminal prosecution. Lieutenant Betzler encourages students and staff to immediately report any suspicious activity or crime on campus or properties nearby.

There are multiple resources available to students on and off-campus, including counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy and legal assistance. The Student Health Center also provides housing and food resources as well as LGBTQ support.