Despite some widely publicized incidents of campus violence, college campuses are generally safe, says Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, writing in the Boston Globe. Based on reports submitted to the U.S. Department of Education under the Clery Act, in 2008, there were 11 homicides, 2,418 forcible rapes, 1,390 robberies and 2,078 aggravated assaults reported by 2,677 four-year colleges with a combined enrollment of just over 12 million. Overall, that translates to a rate per 100,000 students that is a small fraction of the corresponding U.S. figure drawn from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports.
The comparative safety of campuses holds even after taking into consideration the fact that, with their lengthy winter and summer breaks, college students are typically on campus for not much more than half the year. In terms of relative risk, rape stands out as the largest among campus perils largely owing to the particular age range of college students and the extent of drinking and partying that characterizes many schools. Aside from reasonable security measures (a well-trained campus police force, adequate lighting and access control for buildings), excessive attention to the risk of campus crime can be counter-productive, Fox says, advancing “the overblown image of students as walking targets, thereby reinforcing fears, rather than calming them.”