ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York is requiring colleges and universities to notify police within 24 hours after a violent felony is reported or someone goes missing from university housing.
The amendment takes effect in January. It strengthens the state law adopted after Suzanne Lyall disappeared from the State University at Albany in 1998 that required schools adopt and implement plans for investigating cases and coordinate with police.
Legislators cited federal data indicating one in five college females have been sexually assaulted and only 12 percent are reported to law enforcement. The state law says it won't conflict with related federal law that gives student victims the option of whether to report those crime to authorities.
"All too frequently, there are on-campus crimes that are swept under the rug by colleges in an effort to protect their reputation," said Assemblyman Edward Braunstein. "This creates a culture where criminals are not held accountable for their actions and parents are not provided with facts about the safety of the school where they send their children."
Braunstein, a Queens Democrat who first introduced the bill in 2011, said Friday that it shifts the onus from students to the schools for reporting crimes to police, though rape victims can still choose to have their cases instead handled privately by college administrators or a judiciary board.
Sen. Kathleen Marchione, another sponsor, said it's especially important with missing students when time matters greatly. The law says colleges and universities will report to police "as soon as practicable" but at least within 24 hours. The Saratoga Republican called it "a long overdue step toward ensuring the safety of college students and improving the security" of campuses.
Doug Lyall said his 19-year-old daughter Suzanne wasn't officially reported missing for a few days, and that even 24 hours can be too long when someone is missing. "So much can happen in that period of time. People with information have gone their separate ways. If there's any evidence, it might have been disturbed or moved," he said.
He and his wife Mary lobbied personally for the new law. Separately, they run the Center for Hope to help families try to find missing loved ones. They received about 1,000 calls the first year and they're still getting about that many and from all over the country, maybe 30 percent about missing college students, he said.
Having someone missing is terrible for families, Lyall said Friday. His daughter's case is still open with the state police, he said. "So far nothing has come in to really give us the information we need."