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Crime On College Campuses

Colleges and universities across the U.S. have seen significant increases in the numbers of disciplinary actions and arrests. See Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2015 (Published May 2016), published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics. This annual report examines crimes in schools and colleges in the U.S.

Even though there has been an increase in the number of disciplinary actions and arrests, the total number of criminal incidents that were reported to law enforcement is down. According to the report, about 27,500 on campus criminal incidents were reported to law enforcement or security at 2 and 4 year colleges and universities in the year 2013. Interestingly, this represents a general downward departure from prior years, going as far back as 2001.


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The data from 2013 reveals that about 56% of all crimes were burglaries, followed by forcible sex offenses (5,000 incidents or 18%), motor vehicle thefts (3,000 incidents or 11%), aggravated assaults (2,100 or 7.5%) and robberies (1,300 or 5%).

College Crime Breakdown 2013 Chart

Related News: Pennsylvania Attorney Brian Kent Files Lawsuit Against PA College and Fraternity for Assault, Murder of Student (January 18, 2017) The estate of Karlie Hall, an 18 year old student, who was assaulted and murdered in her dorm room, filed a lawsuit against the college and a local fraternity. Crime victim lawyer Brian Kent filed the federal lawsuit against Millersville University, a fraternity and other parties.

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Increase In Disciplinary Actions At Post-Secondary Schools In The U.S.

Despite the overall downward trend in the number of crimes reported to law enforcement, there have been some major increases in the number disciplinary actions for drug and alcohol law violations from 2001 to 2013. What this means is that colleges and universities are declining to report criminal incidents to law enforcement and instead, are handling matters “in house.” This sends the wrong message to students, i.e., that unlawful conduct will be swept under the rug and handled by the school, rather than law enforcement.

In 2001, there were about 24,000 disciplinary actions for drug law violations. By 2013, that number increased to just over 54,000, a 127% increase.

Disciplinary Action 2001 2013 % Increase
Drug Violation 23,900 54,100 127%
Alcohol Violation 130,000 190,900 47%
Illegal Weapons 1,300 1,400 8%

*See below for more data on criminal activity on college campuses in the U.S.

On Campus Sexual Offenses

From 2001 to 2013, there was a 126% increase in the number of forcible sex crimes on campus. In addition, from 2012 to 2013, there was a 25% increase in the number of reported sex crimes, 4,000 to 5,000, respectively. Sex offenses are more likely to occur at colleges and universities with residence halls than those without them (4.6 vs. 0.5 per 10,000 full-time students).

Lawsuits For College Crimes

When a crime occurs on campus, students often believe that the college will take appropriate action. Oftentimes, college security does not. Time and time again, reports of an assault or incident get swept under the rug. A parent’s call may not be returned. The local police department may defer to campus security and not want to get involved. Our attorneys see this type of behavior time and time again.

Claims Against Schools – Negligence

Under federal and state law, a college or university may be held liable when a student is the victim of an on campus crime such as a physical assault or a sexual assault. Whether it occurs in a dorm room or somewhere else on campus, a college which fails to take reasonable precautions to protect students may face liability. Oftentimes, the college may be liable for negligence in the following:

  • controlling access to buildings and dorms,
  • video surveillance,
  • enforcing student identification procedures, and
  • failing to obtain or require student/employee badges.

Liability Of Other Parties (Fraternities, Sororities, Bars/Clubs)

In recent years, three of the most common cases involving on campus crime include hazing lawsuits, sexual assault lawsuits and alcohol accident lawsuits. In some instances, other parties can be held liable in addition to the college. A fraternity/sorority or bar or nightclub may be held liable.

For example, in an assault case, both the college and a local bar or club can be held liable where an underage student is served alcohol at the bar, and then goes back to her dorm where she is assaulted by an unknown third party perpetrator, who gained unauthorized access to the dorm. The bar can be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor, and the college may be liable for allowing an unknown third party (perpetrator) to access a private dorm room.

Additional Statistics On College Crime

According to the most recent data from the 2015 report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety, crimes on college campuses have decreased since 2001. However, as indicated above, the number of disciplinary actions have increased sharply. As indicated above, from 2001 to 2013, there was a 127% increase in the number of disciplinary actions for drug violations. Also, there was a 126% increase in the number of forcible sexual offenses.

While the number of disciplinary actions has increased across the board, the number of arrests has largely stayed the same. With the exception of drug arrests, arrests for alcohol violations and illegal weapons have decreased slightly.

Arrests At Post-Secondary Schools In The U.S.

Type of Arrest 2001 2013 Percent Change
Drugs 11,900 20,100 70%
Alcohol 27,400 26,600 -3%
Illegal Weapons 1,100 1,000 -3%

These statistics clearly show that on campus crime still remains a problem. Drugs and sex offenses are some of the most serious issues on college campuses in the U.S.

From the Crime Victim Injury Law Library:

Laffey, Bucci & Kent – Crime Victim Injury Lawyers

Our lawyers handle a variety of crime victim injury cases including injury lawsuits against schools, universities and colleges in cases of alcohol injuries, assaults and sex abuse. For more information, contact our lawyers at (866) 641-0806 or visit our crime victim injury law library.

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