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Campuses have lower crime rates

Serious campus crime in the United States is significantly lower than for the nation as a whole, a study by an association of law enforcement administrators has reported.

For example, the study found that in 1991 the campus rate for serious crimes-defined as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault-was only 27 percent of that of the nation as a whole.

The study was based on the first set of crime reports that colleges and universities are required to make annually under a federal law that took effect last September.

The law, often referred to as the "Cleary Law" for the victim of a 1986 murder at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pa., was enacted in the wake of many news reports and talk shows that depicted crime as rampant on many campuses.

That view, which MIT Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin called alarmist, is not supported in the study done by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, she said. Chief Glavin is a member of the association.

Chief Glavin reported on the study to the MIT administration as part of her continuing assessment of campus police and safety procedures. The review was ordered by President Charles M. Vest after the killing last September of an MIT undergraduate who was attacked and stabbed while walking with a friend on Memorial Drive along the south edge of the campus.

The study undertaken by the campus law enforcement administrators does not compare one college to another. It examines general trends in campus crime.

"Attempts to compare college crime statistics are fraught with problems and it is generally viewed as a poor way to present a picture of the likelihood of harm or danger," Chief Glavin said. For example, she said, comparing colleges on the basis of enrollment would not present an accurate picture because some campuses, like MIT, are in the middle of an urban area and others are in rural locations.

The study, which looked at data for the years 1989-1991, also found that:

The number of crimes reported in each of the three years increased; 1991 was 6.4 percent over 1990 and 1990 was 5.8 percent over the year before.

Violent crime on campuses during the three years was 3 percent of the total campus crimes reported on Part I of the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, compared with 13 percent for the nation as a whole. (Part I offenses are criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor-vehicle theft and arson.)

In 1991, the Part I crime rate on campuses was 1,568.3 per 100,000 students, faculty and staff. In the United States as a whole, the rate was 5,897.8 per 100,000 population.

The violent-crime rate on campuses is about 6.3 percent of the rate for comparable crimes in the nation as a whole.

The property crime rate on campuses is about 30 percent as high as in the United States as a whole.

A version of this article appeared in the April 14, 1997 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 29).

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