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Indicator 22: Criminal Incidents at Postsecondary Institutions
(Last Updated: March 2018)

In 2015, about 27,500 criminal incidents on campuses at postsecondary institutions were reported to police and security agencies, representing a 2 percent increase from 2014, when 26,900 criminal incidents were reported. The number of on-campus crimes reported per 10,000 full-time-equivalent students also increased, from 18.0 in 2014 to 18.5 in 2015.

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; and referrals for disciplinary action primarily dealing with persons associated formally with the institution (i.e., students, faculty, and other staff).

In 2015, there were 27,500 criminal incidents against persons and property on campus at public and private 2-year and 4-year postsecondary institutions that were reported to police and security agencies, representing a 2 percent increase from 2014, when 26,900 criminal incidents were reported (table 22.1). The number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students92 also increased, from 18.0 in 2014 to 18.5 in 2015 (table 22.2).

Among the various types of on-campus crimes reported in 2015, there were 12,300 burglaries,93 constituting 45 percent of all criminal incidents (table 22.1). Other commonly reported crimes included forcible sex offenses (8,000 incidents, or 29 percent of crimes) and motor vehicle theft (3,300 incidents, or 12 percent of crimes). In addition, 2,300 aggravated assaults and 1,000 robberies94 were reported. These estimates translate to 8.3 burglaries, 5.4 forcible sex offenses, 2.2 motor vehicle thefts, 1.5 aggravated assaults, and 0.7 robberies per 10,000 FTE students (table 22.2).

Between 2001 and 2015, the overall number of reported crimes decreased by 34 percent (figure 22.1 and table 22.1). During this time, the number of reported on-campus crimes first increased by 7 percent between 2001 and 2006 (from 41,600 to 44,500). The number of reported on-campus crimes then decreased by 40 percent between 2006 and 2014 (from 44,500 to 26,900), before increasing by 2 percent between 2014 and 2015 (from 26,900 to 27,500). The number of on-campus crimes reported in 2015 was lower than the number reported in 2001 for every category except forcible sex offenses and murder.95 The number of reported forcible sex offenses on campus increased from 2,200 in 2001 to 8,000 in 2015 (a 262 percent increase).96 More recently, the number of reported forcible sex offenses increased by 18 percent between 2014 and 2015 (from 6,800 to 8,000). The number of reported murders was higher in 2015 than in 2001 (28 vs. 17), but the number of reported murders was quite variable across these years with no clear pattern of increase or decrease.


Figure 22.1. 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 2015

Figure 22.1. 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 2015

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 2015; and National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2002 through Spring 2016, Fall Enrollment component.


Increases in FTE college enrollment between 2001 and 2015 as well as changes in the number of on-campus crimes affected the number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 FTE students (see Digest of Education Statistics 2016 for details about college enrollment). Overall, the number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 students decreased from 35.6 in 2001 to 18.5 in 2015 (figure 22.1 and table 22.2). Between 2001 and 2006, both postsecondary enrollment and the number of on-campus crimes increased. However, because enrollment increased by a larger percentage than the number of crimes, the number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 students was actually lower in 2006 (33.3) 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 per 10,000 students decreased from 33.3 to 18.0. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of reported on-campus crimes increased, enrollment decreased, and the number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 students increased from 18.0 to 18.5. The rate per 10,000 students was lower in 2015 than in 2001 for all types of reported on-campus crimes except forcible sex offenses and murder. In the case of forcible sex offenses, the rate increased from 1.9 per 10,000 students in 2001 to 5.4 per 10,000 students in 2015. The number of murders per 10,000 students was higher in 2015 than in 2001 (0.02 vs. 0.01).

In 2015, the number of crimes committed on college campuses differed by type of institution, although to some extent this reflects the enrollment size of the types 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 2015, institutions with residence halls reported higher rates of on-campus crime than institutions without residence halls (24.0 vs. 6.0 per 10,000 FTE students; table 22.2). Rates for most types of crime were also higher for institutions with residence halls. For example, more burglaries were reported at institutions with residence halls than at institutions without residence halls (10.8 vs. 2.5 per 10,000 students), and more forcible sex offenses were reported at institutions with residence halls than at institutions without them (7.4 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, overall there were decreases in the numbers of on-campus crimes at all institution types between 2006 (when the overall number of reported on-campus crimes reached its peak since data collection began) and 2015. For example, the number of on-campus crimes decreased over this period from 20,600 to 13,500 for public 4-year institutions, from 16,900 to 10,400 for nonprofit 4-year institutions, and from 5,700 to 3,000 for public 2-year institutions (table 22.1). The decreases in the number of on-campus crimes per 10,000 FTE students over the period were from 35.5 to 19.5 for public 4-year institutions, from 57.7 to 30.8 for nonprofit 4-year institutions, and from 15.4 to 8.3 for public 2-year institutions (table 22.2).

As part of the Clery Act, postsecondary institutions are also required to report the number of arrests made on campus for illegal weapons possession and drug and liquor law violations. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of on-campus arrests reported increased (from 40,300 to 54,300; figure 22.2 and table 22.1). Since 2011, the number of on-campus arrests has decreased, although the number of on-campus arrests in 2015 (40,600) was still higher than the number in 2001. The number of arrests for drug law violations increased from 11,900 to 19,400 between 2001 and 2015. Also, 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 2015, and the 2015 figure (20,000) was lower than in any year between 2001 and 2014. There was no clear pattern of change in the number of arrests for illegal weapons possession between 2001 and 2015; the number of arrests ranged from 1,000 to 1,300 each year during this time span.


Figure 22.2. 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 2015

Figure 22.2. 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 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 2015; and National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2002 through Spring 2016, Fall Enrollment component.


The number of arrests per 10,000 FTE students for drug law violations increased from 10.2 in 2001 to 13.1 in 2015 (figure 22.2 and table 22.2). In contrast, the number of arrests per 10,000 students for liquor law violations decreased from 23.5 to 13.5 and the number of arrests per 10,000 students for illegal weapons possession decreased from 0.9 to 0.8 during this period.

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 only include incidents for which there was a referral for institutional disciplinary action, but no arrest. In 2015, there were 242,100 referrals for disciplinary action for cases involving illegal weapons possession, drug law violations, and liquor law violations, with most of the referrals (91 percent) involving violations in residence halls (table 22.1). The largest number of disciplinary referrals (184,700) involved liquor law violations.

Similar to the number of on-campus arrests for drug law violations, the number of disciplinary referrals for these incidents increased between 2001 and 2015 (from 23,900 to 56,000, for a 134 percent increase; figure 22.3 and table 22.1). The number of referrals for liquor law violations also increased, from 130,000 in 2001 to 184,700 in 2015 (a 42 percent increase). 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 2015 (1,400) was higher than the number in 2001 (1,300).


Figure 22.3. 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 2015

Figure 22.3. 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 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. 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 2015; and National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Spring 2002 through Spring 2016, Fall Enrollment component.


Part of the increase in the number of disciplinary referrals over time may be associated with increases in the number of students on college campuses over time. However, the number of referrals per 10,000 FTE students for illegal weapons possession decreased from 1.1 to 0.9 between 2001 and 2015 (figure 22.3 and table 22.2). The number of referrals per 10,000 students for drug law violations increased between 2001 and 2015 (from 20.5 to 37.7). And while the number of referrals per 10,000 students for liquor law violations increased between 2001 and 2006 (from 111.3 to 141.6), the number per 10,000 students was lower in 2015 than in 2006 (124.3 vs. 141.6).


This indicator has been updated to include 2015 data. For more information: Digest of Education Statistics 2016, tables 22.1 and 22.2, and http://ope.ed.gov/security/.


92 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.
93 Unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.
94 Taking or attempting to take anything of value using actual or threatened force or violence.
95 The number of negligent manslaughter offenses was the same in 2001 and 2015 (2 incidents).
96 Data on reported forcible sex offenses were collected differently in 2014 and 2015 than in prior years. In 2014 and 2015, 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 only reported a total number of reported forcible sex offenses, with no breakouts for specific types of offenses. About 5,100 rapes and 2,900 fondling incidents were reported in 2015.