Northeastern University tallied just five burglaries on and around its campus in Boston in 2004, far below most other colleges in the area, says the Wall Street Journal. That stellar figure, reported to the U.S. Education Department and distributed in the school’s literature for students and staff, helped tip some safety-minded applicants toward Northeastern. But the university also counted 345 larcenies, which don’t involve unlawful entry. Federal regulators say many larcenies at Northeastern and other schools should have been reported as burglaries and disclosed on campus.
Under a 1990 law known as the Clery Act, schools must report statistics on burglaries — but not larcenies — to the Education Department and to students and staff. Some schools have understated violent crimes such as robberies and sexual assaults. A comparison of recent Clery reports to FBI data shows that colleges may be portraying themselves as safer than they really are. Some schools, including Northeastern, say they exclude many unsolved thefts from burglary numbers submitted to the Education Department, despite federal guidance to the contrary. On anothe crime issue, “it’s so easy to underreport sexual assaults because it’s such a private crime, and schools are left with the responsibility of asking deans about sexual assaults reported to them by students,” says S. Daniel Carter of Security on Campus. “If they don’t ask, it doesn’t get recorded.”