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Indicator 21: Criminal Incidents at Postsecondary Institutions
(Last Updated: April 2019)

In 2016, about 28,400 criminal incidents on campuses at postsecondary institutions were reported to police and security agencies, representing a 3 percent increase from 2015, when 27,600 criminal incidents were reported. The number of on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 full-time-equivalent students also increased, from 18.7 in 2015 to 19.2 in 2016.

Since 1990, postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal student financial aid programs have been required to comply with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, known as the Clery Act. The Clery Act requires institutions to distribute timely warnings about crime occurrences to students and staff; to publicly report campus crime and safety policies; and to collect, report, and disseminate campus crime data. Since 1999, data on campus safety and security have been reported by institutions through the Campus Safety and Security Survey, sponsored by the Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education. These reports include on-campus criminal offenses and arrests involving students, faculty, staff, and the general public, as well as referrals for disciplinary action primarily dealing with persons associated formally with the institution (i.e., students, faculty, and other staff).

In 2016, a total of 28,400 criminal incidents against persons and property on campuses at postsecondary institutions were reported to police and security agencies, representing a 3 percent increase from 2015, when 27,600 criminal incidents were reported (table 21.1). The number of on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students89 also increased, from 18.7 in 2015 to 19.2 in 2016 (table 21.2).

Among the various types of on-campus crimes reported in 2016, there were 12,000 burglaries,90 which constituted 42 percent of all criminal incidents (table 21.1). Other commonly reported crimes included forcible sex offenses (8,900 incidents, or 31 percent of crimes) and motor vehicle thefts (3,500 incidents, or 12 percent of crimes). In addition, 2,200 aggravated assaults and 1,100 robberies91 were reported. These estimates translate to 8.1 burglaries, 6.0 forcible sex offenses, 2.4 motor vehicle thefts, 1.5 aggravated assaults, and 0.7 robberies per 10,000 FTE students (table 21.2).

Between 2001 and 2016, the overall number of reported on-campus crimes decreased by 32 percent (figure 21.1 and table 21.1). During this period, the number of reported on-campus crimes increased by 7 percent between 2001 and 2006 (from 41,600 to 44,500), decreased by 40 percent between 2006 and 2014 (from 44,500 to 26,800), but then increased by 6 percent between 2014 and 2016 (from 26,800 to 28,400). This recent increase was driven primarily by the recent increase in the number of reported forcible sex offenses. The number of on-campus crimes reported in 2016 was lower than the number reported in 2001 for every category except forcible sex offenses and negligent manslaughter offenses.92 The number of reported forcible sex offenses on campus increased from 2,200 in 2001 to 8,900 in 2016 (a 305 percent increase). More recently, the number of reported forcible sex offenses increased by 11 percent between 2015 and 2016 (from 8,000 to 8,900). Data on reported forcible sex offenses were collected differently since 2014. Since 2014, schools were asked to report the numbers of two different types of forcible sex offenses, rape and fondling, and these were added together to reach the total number of reported forcible sex offenses. In years prior to 2014, schools reported only a total number of reported forcible sex offenses, with no breakouts for specific types of offenses. About 5,800 rapes and 3,100 fondling incidents were reported in 2016.


Figure 21.1. Number of on-campus crimes reported and number per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by selected type of crime: 2001 through 2016

Figure 21.1. Number of on-campus crimes reported and number per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by selected type of crime: 2001 through 2016

1 Includes other reported crimes not separately shown.
2 Unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.
3 Theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle.
4 Any sexual act directed against another person forcibly and/or against that person’s will.
NOTE: Data are for degree-granting institutions, which are institutions that grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some institutions that report Clery Act data—specifically, non-degree-granting institutions and institutions outside of the 50 states and the District of Columbia—are excluded from this figure. Crimes include incidents involving students, staff, and on-campus guests. Excludes off-campus crimes even if they involve college students or staff. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, Campus Safety and Security Reporting System, 2001 through 2016; and National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2002 through Spring 2017, Fall Enrollment component.


The number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 FTE students changed between 2001 and 2016 due to changes both in the FTE college enrollment and in the number of reported on-campus crimes during that period (see Digest of Education Statistics 2017 for details about college enrollment). Overall, the number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 students decreased from 35.6 in 2001 to 19.2 in 2016 (figure 21.1 and table 21.2). Between 2001 and 2006, both postsecondary enrollment and the number of reported on-campus crimes increased. However, because enrollment increased by a larger percentage than the number of reported crimes, the number of reported on-campus crimes per 10,000 students was actually lower in 2006 (33.4) than in 2001 (35.6). Between 2006 and 2014, the number of reported on-campus crimes decreased, enrollment increased, and the number of on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 students decreased from 33.4 to 18.1. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of reported on-campus crimes increased, enrollment decreased, and the number of reported on-campus crimes per 10,000 students increased from 18.1 to 19.2. The rate per 10,000 students was lower in 2016 than in 2001 for all types of reported on-campus crimes except forcible sex offenses. The rate for forcible sex offenses increased from 1.9 per 10,000 students in 2001 to 6.0 per 10,000 students in 2016.

In 2016, the number of crimes reported on college campuses differed by type of institution, although to some extent this reflects the enrollment size of the types of institutions and the presence of student residence halls. Crimes involving students on campus after normal class hours, such as those occurring in residence halls, are included in campus crime reports, while crimes involving students off campus are not. In 2016, institutions with residence halls reported higher rates of on-campus crime than institutions without residence halls (24.8 vs. 5.9 per 10,000 FTE students; table 21.2). The rate for each individual type of crime was also higher for institutions with residence halls. For example, more burglaries were reported at institutions with residence halls than at institutions without residence halls (10.7 vs. 2.1 per 10,000 students), and more forcible sex offenses were reported at institutions with residence halls than at institutions without them (8.2 vs. 0.8 per 10,000 students).

Although data for different types of institutions are difficult to compare directly because of the differing structures of student services and campus arrangements, there were decreases in the overall numbers of on-campus crimes reported at all institution types between 2006 (when the overall number of reported on-campus crimes reached its peak since data collection began) and 2016. For example, the number of reported on-campus crimes decreased over this period from 20,600 to 14,200 for public 4-year institutions, from 16,900 to 11,100 for nonprofit 4-year institutions, and from 5,700 to 2,600 for public 2-year institutions (table 21.1). The decreases in the number of on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 FTE students over the period were from 35.5 to 19.7 for public 4-year institutions, from 57.7 to 32.7 for nonprofit 4-year institutions, and from 15.4 to 7.9 for public 2-year institutions (table 21.2).

As part of the Clery Act, postsecondary institutions are also required to report the number of arrests made on campus for illegal weapons possession, drug law violations, and liquor law violations. The total number of these reported on-campus arrests increased between 2001 and 2011 (from 40,300 to 54,300), then decreased between 2011 and 2016 (from 54,300 to 39,000; figure 21.2 and table 21.1). The number of arrests for drug law violations increased from 11,900 to 19,300 between 2001 and 2016. There was an increase in the number of arrests for liquor law violations between 2001 and 2007 (from 27,400 to 35,100); however, the number decreased between 2007 and 2016, and the 2016 figure (18,600) was lower than in any year between 2001 and 2015. There was no clear pattern of change in the number of arrests for illegal weapons possession between 2001 and 2016; the number of arrests ranged from 1,000 to 1,300 each year during this time span.


Figure 21.2. Number of on-campus arrests and number per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by type of arrest: 2001 through 2016

Figure 21.2. Percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported various safety and security measures at school: Selected years, 1999 through 2015

NOTE: Data are for degree-granting institutions, which are institutions that grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some institutions that report Clery Act data—specifically, non-degree-granting institutions and institutions outside of the 50 states and the District of Columbia—are excluded from this figure. Arrests include incidents involving students, staff, and on-campus guests. Excludes off-campus arrests even if they involve college students or staff. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, Campus Safety and Security Reporting System, 2001 through 2016; and National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2002 through Spring 2017, Fall Enrollment component.


The number of arrests per 10,000 FTE students for drug law violations increased from 10.2 in 2001 to 13.0 in 2016 (figure 21.2 and table 21.2). In contrast, the number of arrests per 10,000 students for liquor law violations decreased from 23.5 to 12.6, and the number of arrests per 10,000 students for illegal weapons possession was lower in 2016 (0.8) than in 2001 (0.9).

In addition to reporting on-campus arrests, institutions report referrals for disciplinary action for cases involving illegal weapons possession, drug law violations, and liquor law violations. Disciplinary action counts include only incidents for which there was a referral for institutional disciplinary action but no arrest. In 2016, there were 231,600 referrals for disciplinary action for cases involving illegal weapons possession, drug law violations, and liquor law violations, with most of the referrals (92 percent) involving violations in residence halls (table 21.1). The largest number of disciplinary referrals (173,700) involved liquor law violations.

The total number of disciplinary referrals increased between 2001 and 2016 (from 155,200 to 231,600). Similar to the pattern observed for on-campus arrests for drug law violations, the number of disciplinary referrals for these incidents increased between 2001 and 2016 (from 23,900 to 56,500; figure 21.3 and table 21.1). The number of referrals for liquor law violations also increased during this period (from 130,000 to 173,700). The number of referrals for illegal weapons possession varied somewhat from year to year with no clear pattern of change, but the number of such referrals in 2016 (1,400) was higher than the number in 2001 (1,300).


Figure 21.3. Number of referrals for disciplinary action resulting from on-campus violations and number per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by type of referral: 2001 through 2016

Figure 21.3. Number of referrals for disciplinary action resulting from on-campus violations and number per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by type of referral: 2001 through 2016

NOTE: Data are for degree-granting institutions, which are institutions that grant associate’s or higher degrees and participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs. Some institutions that report Clery Act data—specifically, non-degree-granting institutions and institutions outside of the 50 states and the District of Columbia—are excluded from this figure. Referrals include incidents involving students, staff, and on-campus guests. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Excludes cases in which an individual is both arrested and referred to college officials for disciplinary action for a single offense.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, Campus Safety and Security Reporting System, 2001 through 2016; and National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2002 through Spring 2017, Fall Enrollment component.


Part of the increase in the total number of disciplinary referrals over time may be associated with increases in the number of students on college campuses. The number of referrals per 10,000 students for drug law violations increased between 2001 and 2016 (from 20.5 to 38.2; figure 21.3 and table 21.2). However, the number of referrals per 10,000 FTE students for illegal weapons possession was lower in 2016 (1.0) than in 2001 (1.1); the number of referrals per 10,000 students for liquor law violations decreased between 2006 and 2016 (from 141.6 to 117.4), following an increase between 2001 and 2006 (from 111.3 to 141.6).

In 2016, the number of referrals per 10,000 FTE students for liquor law violations differed by type of institution and by presence of student residence halls. For instance, the number of referrals per 10,000 students for liquor law violations was higher for nonprofit 4-year institutions than for public 4-year institutions (232.9 vs. 125.0 per 10,000 students). Similarly, this rate was higher for nonprofit 2-year institutions than for public 2-year institutions (60.5 vs. 12.2 per 10,000 students). Overall and for each type of institution, the number of referrals per 10,000 students for liquor law violations was higher at institutions with residence halls than at institutions without residence halls. For instance, among nonprofit 4-year institutions, the rate was 254.7 per 10,000 students at institutions with residence halls, compared with 15.8 per 10,000 students at institutions without residence halls; among public 4-year institutions, the rate was 139.5 per 10,000 students at institutions with residence halls, compared with 0.5 per 10,000 students at institutions without residence halls.


This indicator has been updated to include 2016 data. For more information: Digest of Education Statistics 2017, tables 21.1 and 21.2, and https://ope.ed.gov/security/.


89 The base of 10,000 FTE students includes students who are enrolled exclusively in distance learning courses and who may not be physically present on campus.
90 Unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.
91 Taking or attempting to take anything of value using actual or threatened force or violence.
92 The number of negligent manslaughter offenses was the same in 2001 and 2016 (2 incidents).