College and Crime: The High Human Cost for Education


With action movies and television dramas fictionalizing “real life” events accelerating incidents of crime, especially on college campuses, is it safe to go to college these days? And if so, where is the majority of college crime?  Who is affected the most?

Lockdowns on college campuses are becoming an unfortunate norm in light of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech and college crime is taking on a wide range of characteristics.   

The U.S. Department of Education reported that there were 95 murders on college campuses in the six years from 1999-2004.  With approximately 4,200 colleges in the United States, this would mean that the average college can expect to experience a murder on campus about once every 265 years.

However, college crime has broadened its scope beyond murders to include students being victimized via assaults, rape and robbery.  Gender bias, as well as sexual and racial discrimination has rocked college campuses as students bring their own misguided beliefs to the college environment.

According to the American College Health Association’s “Campus Violence White Paper,” White college students had somewhat higher rates of violent victimization than Blacks and higher rates than students of other races.

The paper also states that non-Hispanic Whites were more likely than any other races to be victims of overall violence or simple assaults. Blacks were more likely than any other students to suffer a simple assault. 

Also, it states that in 41 percent of the college crimes noted that the perpetrator was believed to be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. 

The Department of Justice reports that overall 86 percent of violent crimes against Whites are caused by Whites. And despite glaring statistics that increasingly imply that Black males are involved in more criminal activities versus college studies, the U.S. Census reports that there are more Black males in colleges than in prison. According to, there is more than twice the amount enrolled in college than are imprisoned.  

How does this type of information match up with the colleges themselves when we look at mainstream institutions versus, let’s say, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)? 

The Daily Beast recently reviewed data, including information from the local FBI, to track college crime and compiled its list of the 25 worst schools.  The ranking was determined on the basis that provided equitable distribution of the data between large universities and small colleges in the tracking system.

Of the 25 schools in the ranking, only six are Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Included among the six: Alabama A&M (21), Norfolk State (15), Hampton University (13), North Carolina Central (10), South Carolina State (8), and Grambling State University (7).

The top five institutions for college crime include MIT, Tufts, University of Maryland-Baltimore and St Xavier. Emerson rounds out the list as the number one “College with the Worst Crime.”  In the case of Emerson, the report notes that “location, location, location” is a primary problem as the college crime does not occur on the campus. But with the school located in downtown Boston, it is near major transit areas and local parks. However, because of the proximity and usage by Emerson students, the reports of assaults and robberies impact their record.

           At the number two spot is St. Xavier. St. Xavier, which was an all girl’s college turned co-ed, is located on the South side of Chicago and is still about 70 percent female.  The college crime for this institution impacts its student population off campus with assaults and rapes leading the criminal statistics.  

Harvard (20) and Yale (23) were also on the list with Harvard being noted as “reporting more on campus crime than any other university on the list.”   Yale, which has its own on campus crime issues and extensive off campus crime, especially with addressing burglaries, was in the national focus with the on campus murder of graduate student Annie Le. 

In comparison, the majority of the college crime committed at HBCUs generally occurs on the campuses as is the case with Grambling, Norfolk State and Alabama A&M with the major crime committed being burglary. 

Hampton University, which touts its safe campus efforts, was recently on “lock down” in 2009 when a former student got into a dorm, shot two people and then himself. No one was killed.  Bottom-line – college crime affects all educational institutions.

While the numbers used to determine college crime reflects a very small percentage in comparison to the overall crime rate of the country, it still warrants attention as college campuses should be safe havens for learning and cultural exchange, not for ducking bullets, being robbed or assaulted. 

Whether it is a mainstream college or university or a historically Black institution, it is important that students, staff and faculty take note of all available safety precautions.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.

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