Campus crime: by the numbers

Editor’s note: This story was written by Sydney Burns and reported by Burns, Hillaree Foreman, Forrest Murphy, Haley Smith and Alejandra Arreguin.

One in every 1,461 students on the largest university campuses in Texas was the victim of a violent crime, according to data gathered from the state’s 20 largest universities.  A total of 360 violent crimes were reported to the federal government in 2015, records show. That’s almost one crime a day for all of 2015.

Texas A&M University reported 43 violent crimes in 2015, which is more than any of the other top 20 largest universities. On a campus of 57,934 students, that works out to one crime for every 1,347 students.

Texan News contacted Texas A&M for comment but they did not respond by deadline.

Baylor University reported 40 violent crimes during the same period, or one crime for every 419 students, the highest ratio of students per crime among the group.

Texas A&M Commerce had the second highest ratio, reporting a total of 24 violent crimes. One in every 512 students at that East Texas institution was a victim of violent crime.

On the other end of the spectrum, The University of Texas at Rio Grande and Stephen F. Austin University reported the fewest violent crimes.

The University of Texas at Rio Grande reported no violent crimes for 2015.

Stephen F. Austin State University reported only three violent crimes, with one violent crime for every 4,202 students.

Tarleton State University fell in the middle of the list at ninth. Nine violent crimes were reported in 2015 making one crime for every 1,369 students.

The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities who receive federal funding to share information about crimes on campus and their efforts to improve campus safety. It also requires those colleges and universities to inform the public of crime in or around campus. This information is made publicly accessible through each university’s annual security report, which is posted on universities websites across the country. To find Tarleton’s report, go to http://www.tarleton.edu/site/documents/cleryact.pdf.

Over three months of research and data was gathered on the top 20 largest public and private universities based on fall 2015 enrollment data, which was obtained from each of the universities’ websites.

Clery reports for 2015 were obtained from each of the 20 universities as well. The number of violent crimes, which include murder, manslaughter, rape, fondling, aggravated assault, robbery, domestic violence and dating violence, were calculated.  Clery reports give only the number of crimes reported, not details or specifics about each crime. Crimes reported under dating violence and domestic violence do not specify whether they were threats or an actual crime, according to Jason Borne, Crime Information Officer at Texas A&M Commerce.

Because of this, Borne said the numbers representing dating and domestic violence can give the wrong impression. Dating violence, for example, includes but is not limited to, sexual or physical abuse or threat of such abuse, he said.

“Note the word ‘threat’.” he wrote in an email. “A threat is not an actual violent crime. That accounts for 11 of the 24 violent crime figure (at A&M Commerce.” That would mean only eight had serious assaults. As you can see, these numbers too can be misleading.”

Tonya Lewis, director of Communication at Baylor University, said “This is an inaccurate characterization of Baylor University that does not reflect the experience of our students, faculty, staff and guests on our campus each and every day. The assertion is based on a gross misrepresentation and oversimplification of Clery reporting numbers. Baylor has placed a significant priority on the safety of our students through robust, campus-wide education programs that have made them aware of resources that are in place to ensure their safety and security. These efforts support our conclusion that Baylor is indeed a safe university and campus community.”

Bone said he, does not believe the Commerce campus is any more dangerous than any other university of the same size.

“Here at A&M Commerce, we have a very strong Clery Compliance program and were recently audited by the Department of Ed(ucation) as part of financial aid audit,” he explained. “I feel we have a very robust reporting structure compared to other schools. We have a staff member who has direct access to student discipline software and conducts monthly reviews with housing and student discipline staff. We require training of all staff considered Campus Security Authorities under the act. We even require this training of summer camp counselors and contracted security at events.”.

Patrick Gonzales, an associate vice president and spokesman for The University of Texas at Rio Grande, said the low crime rate is due to the combination of students, faculty and staff.

“The Rio Grande Valley region is very familial and tight knit. Most of our students are commuter students, so when they join our school and campus environment, they already bring a great understanding and culture related to violent crime,” said Gonzales.

Chris River, associate director of public safety and assistant police chief at Stephen F. Austin, said the university has multiple resources for their students, which help make the campus safe. Some of those resources include police officers patrolling the campus 24/7, evening shuttle services, over 800 surveillance cameras throughout campus and tip texting, which allows crime and tip reporting through text and images.

Like Gonzalez, River says that the low violent crime ratio is an accurate reflection of the culture on campus.

“Our campus community is eager to learn safety precautions and use those in helping keep themselves and their property safe. Campus safety is not just an effort by our department, it is a campus collaboration.  It takes everyone to keep a campus safe; other departments, faculty, staff, and students as well as the surrounding community members,” said River.

Tarleton, police Chief Matt Welch said every university wants to be No. 1 as the safest university however criminal behavior cannot always be prevented.

“I think there is always room for improvement,’ said Welch. “The fact that there has been no significant spikes of any crime lets me know, no huge crime wave has occurred on campus.”

“I can’t speak for other universities, but we go through a group process to make sure our numbers are as accurate as humanly possible, Welch said. “We don’t try to minimize it. We try to be as accurate as can be.”

There are multiple resources, the chief said, available to Tarleton students to ensure their safety. Those resources include golf cart shuttles.

“One thing that we encourage people to use here is, Sunday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., we have students who drive golf carts shuttles. We encourage people to use those shuttles because it just makes you safer,” said Welch.

He also stated that the two biggest resources at Tarleton are the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program and police escorts which are offered 24/7.

In 2009, journalism students at Tarleton State University published a story that detailed the university’s underreporting of campus crimes as required by the Clery Act. Tarleton failed to disclose three forcible sexual assaults, one robbery, 39 burglaries and 28 drug arrest between 2003 and 2005. Tarleton was fined $137,500. That fine was later reduced by $27,500 because the judge said federal officials with the Department of Education failed to show that a fine that large was appropriate despite the university’s admitted failure to comply with the Clery Act. The university later corrected the crime reports and hired a new police chief and Clery oversight committee to review crime logs.

Each year, universities are required to make the Clery Report data available to the public. And while most universities have many resources in place to minimize crime, there is always room for improvement.

“Some things are beyond your control. You cannot always prevent criminal behavior,” said Welch.

University Name Number of Violent Crimes in 2015 One Violent Crime per
number of students
Enrollment 2015
Texas A&M University 43 1,347 57,934
The University of Texas at Austin 24 2,122 50,950
The University of Houston 40 1,067 42,704
Texas State University 12 3,164 37,979
University of North Texas 28 1,327 37,175
University of Texas at Arlington 20 1,850 37,008
Texas Tech University 19 1,889 35,893
University of Texas at San Antonio 16 1,799 28,787
University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley 0 0 28,584
University of Texas at Dallas 11 2,232 24,554
University of Texas at El Paso 16 1,462 23,397
Sam Houston State University 20 1,001 20,031
Baylor University 40 419 16,787
Texas Woman’s University 13 1,177 15,303
Lamar University 13 1,151 14,966
University of Houston-Downtown 5 2,852 14,262
Stephen F. Austin State University 3 4,202 12,606
Tarleton State University 9 1,369 12,326
Texas A&M Commerce 24 512 12,302
Texas A&M Corpus Christi 4 2,923 11,693

 

Although Texas A&M University has the most number of violent crimes reported, when comparing that to the total population, Baylor has the highest crime to student ratio.

Enrollment was retrieved directly from each university’s website.


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