DISCLAIMER: This study uses data from the FBI’s 2016 Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) college and university dataset. The FBI discourages ranking locales based on this data. While the choice to present UCR data in the format of a ranked list is controversial, this study does not aim to measure the effectiveness of any campus law enforcement body or assess the character of any of the students enrolled in these schools. This study lists a number of universities that have higher rates of violent crime, and acknowledges and highlights these schools’ efforts at promoting campus and public safety.
Back to school season is in full swing, and hordes of eager freshmen, seasoned seniors, and bustling graduate students alike are adjusting to the rhythms of campus life.
Your college years can be a time of great self-discovery, unmatched intellectual growth, and, yes, some regrettable decisions. Within that halcyon haze of university life, it’s easy to forget that your campus is still part of the “real world.”
But there’s a darker side to back-to-school season: it’s the return of house parties, the introduction of new students unfamiliar with their surroundings, and the time of year when campus security forces might find themselves working overtime. Across the nation, many college and university campuses see violent crimes and property theft or damage: in 2016 alone, campuses saw 3,608 reported violent crimes and 67,449 reported property crimes.
Of course, each school’s crime profile is shaped by many variables, including the demographics of the college and surrounding community, campus residential policies and practices, and campus location. To better understand how crime rates vary across our nation’s college campuses, Insurify’s data scientists decided to delve into data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to see which campuses are home to the highest proportion of violent crimes per 10,000 students. While crimes of this type (including aggravated assault, robbery, and murder) are few and far between when indexed against every 10,000 students, property crimes are far more prevalent on university campuses.
Furthermore, these rankings in no way imply the effectiveness of campus police forces or the character of students enrolled. In fact, the data scientists at Insurify—ever committed to promoting safety for all—decided to explore how these universities are ensuring a safe environment and staving off crimes of all types through student-led and institutionally originated initiatives.
The data scientists at Insurify, an auto insurance quotes comparison website, compiled data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) data from 2016, the most recent data of this type available. (The FBI compiles data on violent and property crimes on college and university campuses on an annual basis.) Insurify’s data scientists then filtered the list by schools with an enrollment of 10,000 students or higher. The final list is ordered by the 20 schools with the highest proportion of violent crimes per 10,000 students (that is, the proportion of students likely to somehow be involved, in any capacity, in a violent crime on campus). Violent crimes include murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Data on student enrollment and the proportion of property crimes per 10,000 students were noted as well. Property crimes include burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
UL Lafayette, the southernmost school on this list, has an extensive campus safety infrastructure. This includes institutional promotion of the Rave Guardian app, which allows users to virtually walk their friends home. Campus police are registered officers in the state of Louisiana.
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Berkeley’s storied campus is no stranger to intra-campus strife. But perhaps it earns its spot on this list for more covert crimes: in terms of number of offenses in 2016, it ranks highest for larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson among the top 20. But the university is more than equipped to respond to any incident: UCPD Berkeley includes a bomb team with a K-9 unit and an anonymous tip line for students who feel unsafe.
The University of Cincinnati’s Department of Public Safety developed the Bearcat Guardian app to enhance communication between its police force and the greater campus community. The app provides access to free day and evening transportation, emergency notifications, and safety tips. Recent reports claim that the university is also adding new features to its 911 dispatch service.
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This prestigious Boston university sees approximately ten times more property crimes than violent ones. That doesn’t reflect on its campus police force and safety initiatives, which include a series of safety videos through NUPD’s “A Quick Heads Up” program.
Among ODU’s safety initiatives is the LiveSafe App, which lets users track friends’ locations, view safety incidents on a campus map, and report tips.
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This beachside institution (the smallest by enrollment on this list) employs a comprehensive emergency management program, a text messaging notification system, and a professionally trained CHANT Intervention Team tasked with dealing with potential safety disruptions. Nevertheless, CCU has the second-highest number of property crimes per 10,000 students on this list.
A public university, NMSU boasts a high number of programs devoted to women’s empowerment and safety through its police department, including classes titled “Fight Like a Girl,” “Girls on Guard,” and “Weapons for Women.”
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University of South Alabama also employs the LiveSafe mobile app for students, and a guaranteed-anonymity Silent Witness Program for community members wishing to provide information on campus crime.
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In February 2018, Miami University students working for its campus newspaper, The Miami Student, held a public forum on safety and security. In citing statistics indicating that local emergency services disproportionately serve incapacitated students, the forum indicated that students are focused on improving public safety in the greater Oxford area and updating educational initiatives on emergency processes.
Like many other large universities, ISU has implemented the Rave Guardian mobile app with the aim of raising campus security standards.
This Chicago-area Catholic university has seen some recent controversy in terms of its campus police practices. The school’s stop and frisk policy has been accused of perpetuating racial profiling, and as a result, mistrust has grown between students and the school’s campus safety office, which is currently withholding body camera footage from the public.
This Wisconsin school has the highest number of property crimes per 10,000 students on this list. It also has been amping up its active shooter training, according to recent reporting.
The eighth-highest proportion of violent crimes among large universities goes to UNH’s three campuses. Its police department is nationally accredited, and possesses communications and social services divisions.
UCM was the country’s first university campus to employ the Campus Eye safety app. It also transmits emergency and weather notifications through TextCaster®.
Between its UB Alert system, official safety escorts, and a nationally recognized university police force, SUNY Buffalo students’ safety is very much accounted for.
This university is one among several sponsors of Birmingham’s Smart Cities Readiness workshop, whose goals include more effective citywide interconnectivity and the use of smart technology to improve crime prevention and law enforcement processes.
The northernmost campus on this list, UMaine also has a less involved and multifaceted police force than most other schools on this list. It has a “Campus Eyes” anonymous tip program, but few other distinctive offerings.
By a wide margin, Marshall University boasts the lowest number of property crimes per 10,000 students on this list. However, it ranks third for violent crimes by the same proportion.
UCLA has the highest number of burglaries among all universities of 10,000 students or more, at 84 total reported incidents in 2016. By sheer numbers, UCLA is #1 for campus-related violent crimes. However, it comes in at second on this list, because it has a student enrollment nearly twice that of the top-ranked most dangerous school.
At #1 on the list of the most dangerous universities is the University of California, Santa Barbara. With 20.4 violent crimes per 10,000 students, UCSB may possess this dubious distinction, but not for lack of passion in community engagement. Student involvement in the betterment of Isla Vista at the UCSB campus has been steadily growing, in part thanks to the student-led establishment of I Heart UCSB in 2013.