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Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2009
NCES 2010-012
December 2009

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

In 2007–08, 75 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents of crime, 17 percent recorded one or more serious violent incidents, and 47 percent recorded one or more thefts.

In the School Survey on Crime and Safety, public school principals were asked to provide the number of violent incidents,26 serious violent incidents,27 thefts of items valued at $10 or greater without personal confrontation, and other incidents28 that occurred at their school;29 public school principals were also asked to provide the number of incidents reported to the police. This indicator presents the percentage of public schools that recorded one or more of these specified crimes, the total number of these crimes recorded, and the rate of crimes per 1,000 students. These data are also presented for crimes that were reported to the police. During the 2007–08 school year, 85 percent of public schools recorded that one or more of these incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes, had taken place, amounting to an estimated 2.0 million crimes (figure 6.1 and table 6.1). This figure translates to a rate of 43 crimes per 1,000 students enrolled in 2007–08. During the same year, 62 percent of schools reported one of the specified crimes to the police, amounting to about 704,000 crimes—or 15 crimes per 1,000 students enrolled.

In 2007–08, a greater percentage of schools recorded an incident of crime than reported an incident of crime to the police. This pattern held true for violent crimes, serious violent crimes, thefts, and other crimes. Similarly, the rate of recorded incidents per 1,000 students was higher than the rate of incidents reported to the police per 1,000 students; this held true for violent crime, serious violent crime, theft, and other crime. In 2007–08, 75 percent of schools recorded one or more violent incidents of crime, 17 percent recorded one or more serious violent incidents, 47 percent recorded one or more thefts, and 67 percent recorded one or more other incidents. In comparison, 38 percent of public schools reported at least one violent incident to police, 13 percent reported at least one serious violent incident to police, 31 percent reported at least one theft to police, and 49 percent reported one or more other incidents to police.

The percentage of schools that recorded incidents of violent crime varied by school characteristics. For example, a smaller percentage of primary schools (65 percent) than middle schools or high schools (94 percent each) recorded violent incidents of crime (table 6.2). However, the rate of recorded violent crimes per 1,000 students was larger for middle schools (41 incidents per 1,000 students) than for primary schools (26 incidents per 1,000 students) or high schools (22 incidents per 1,000 students). With regard to public schools that reported incidents of violent crime to the police, a greater percentage of high schools (75 percent) reported violent crimes to the police than middle schools (64 percent) or primary schools (20 percent) (table 6.3). There was no measurable difference between the rate per 1,000 students of reported violent incidents at high schools and middle schools (11 percent each).

There was a range in the number of crimes recorded and reported by schools in 2007–08. One-quarter of schools recorded zero violent crimes, and 24 percent of schools recorded 20 or more violent crimes (figure 6.2 and table 6.4). Sixty-two percent of schools did not report a violent crime to the police, compared to 5 percent of schools that reported 20 or more violent crimes to the police. In regard to serious violent crimes, 83 percent of schools did not record a serious violent crime, compared to 1 percent of schools that recorded 10 or more such crimes (table 6.5).

The range in the number of crimes recorded by schools varied by school characteristics. For example, a larger percentage of city schools recorded 20 or more violent incidents in 2007–08 than suburban schools, town schools, or rural schools (table 6.4). In 2007–08, 36 percent of city schools recorded 20 or more violent incidents, compared to 24 percent of suburban schools, 21 percent of town schools, and 14 percent of rural schools.

The percentages of public schools recording incidents of crime or reporting incidents of crime to the police in 2007–08 were not measurably different from the percentages of schools doing so in 1999–2000 (figure 6.3 and table 6.1). While this pattern held true for the percentage of public schools reporting violent incidents, as well as the percentage of schools recording and reporting serious violent incidents and thefts, there was an increase in the percentage of schools recording violent incidents over this period (from 71 to 75 percent) and a decrease in the percentage of schools recording other incidents during this period (from 73 to 67 percent).

This indicator has been updated to include 2007–08 data. For more information: Tables 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, 6.4, and 6.5, and Neiman and DeVoe (2009).

26 Violent incidents include serious violent incidents; physical attack or fight without a weapon; and threat of physical attack without a weapon.
27 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.
28 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.
29 "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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