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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2008
NCES 2009-022
April 2009

Indicator 6: Violent and Other Crime Incidents at Public Schools and Those Reported to the Police20

In 2005–06, 78 percent of public schools experienced one or more violent incidents of crime, 17 percent experienced one or more serious violent incidents, 46 percent experienced one or more thefts, and 68 percent experienced another type of crime.

This indicator presents the percentage of public schools that experienced one or more specified crimes, the total number of these crimes reported by schools, and the rate of crimes per 1,000 students. These data are also presented for the crimes that were reported to the police. In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, public school principals were asked to provide the number of serious violent incidents,21 violent incidents,22 thefts of items valued at $10 or greater without personal confrontation, and other incidents23 that occurred at their school,24 as well as the number of these incidents reported to the police. During the 2005–06 school year, 86 percent of public schools reported that one or more incidents of these crimes had taken place, amounting to an estimated 2.2 million crimes (figure 6.1 and table 6.1). This figure translates into a rate of 46 crimes per 1,000 students enrolled in 2005–06. During the same year, 61 percent of schools reported an incident of one of the specified crimes to the police, amounting to about 763,000 crimes—or 16 crimes per 1,000 students enrolled.

In 2005–06, 78 percent of schools experienced one or more violent incidents of crime, 17 percent experienced one or more serious violent incidents, 46 percent experienced one or more thefts, and 68 percent experienced one or more other incidents. Thirty-eight percent of public schools reported at least one violent incident to police, 13 percent reported at least one serious violent incident to police, 28 percent reported at least one theft to police, and 51 percent reported one or more of the other incidents to police.

The percentage of public schools with incidents of crime was lower in 2005–06 than in 2003–04. In 2003–04, 89 percent of schools experienced crimes, compared to 86 percent of schools in 2005–06 (figure 6.3 and table 6.1). The percentage of schools with crimes in 2005–06 was not measurably different from the percentage of schools with crimes in 1999–2000. The percentage of public schools that reported crimes to the police followed a similar pattern. In 1999–2000, 62 percent of schools reported crimes to the police; in 2003–04, 65 percent of schools reported crimes to the police; and, in 2005–06, 61 percent of schools did so.

There was a range in the rate of crimes reported by schools in 2005–06. For example, 46 percent of schools experienced 20 or more violent incidents per 1,000 students compared to 1 percent that experienced 1 or 2 such incidents and 22 percent that reported zero incidents (figure 6.2 and table 6.4). Although 83 percent of schools reported zero incidents of serious violent crime, about 2 percent experienced 1 serious violent incident per 1,000 students, 4 percent experienced 2 serious violent incidents per 1,000 students, 6 percent experienced 3 to 5 serious violent incidents per 1,000 students, 2 percent experienced 6 to 9 serious violent incidents per 1,000 students, and 3 percent experienced 10 or more such incidents per 1,000 students (figure 6.2 and table 6.5). Similarly, there also was a substantial range in the number of incidents reported to the police. For example, 62 percent of schools reported zero incidents of violent crime to the police compared to 5 percent that reported 1 or 2 violent incidents per 1,000 students and 9 percent that reported 20 or more such incidents per 1,000 students (figure 6.2 and table 6.4).

The percentage of schools that experienced violent crime also varied by school characteristic and number of incidents. A larger percentage of city schools (53 percent) reported 20 or more violent incidents per 1,000 students than urban fringe schools (42 percent) and rural schools (43 percent). There was no measurable difference in the percentage of city schools and town schools that experienced 20 or more violent incidents per 1,000 students in 2005–06.

As the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch increased, so did the percentage of schools reporting experiencing 20 or more violent incidents per 1,000 students. In 2005–06, 55 percent of schools where more than 50 percent of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch experienced 20 or more violent incidents per 1,000 students compared to 29 percent of schools where 20 percent or less of the students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch programs is a proxy measure of school poverty.

This indicator has been modified. For more information: Tables 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5; appendix B for definitions of school levels and urbanicity; and Nolle, Guerino, and Dinkes (2007).

20 Indicator was revised on November 23, 2009.
21 Serious violent incidents include rape or attempted rape, sexual battery other than rape, physical attack or fight with a weapon, threat of physical attack with a weapon, and robbery with or without a weapon.
22 Violent incidents include serious violent incidents plus physical attacks or fights without a weapon and threats of physical attacks without a weapon.
23 Other incidents include possession of a firearm or explosive device; possession of a knife or sharp object; distribution, possession, or use of illegal drugs or alcohol; and vandalism.
24 "At school" was defined for respondents to include activities that happen in school buildings, on school grounds, on school buses, and at places that hold school-sponsored events or activities. Respondents were instructed to include incidents that occurred before, during, or after normal school hours or when school activities or events were in session.

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