Federal Study Analyzes 272 College Campus Violence Cases


A report by federal law enforcement officers released on last week’s third anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre offers the first comprehensive analysis of violent attacks carried out on U.S. college campuses in the past century and finds that more than half have occurred in the past 20 years, reports the Washington Post. Researchers looked at public records of 272 incidents of “targeted violence” at colleges since 1900. The study was a joint effort of the Secret Service, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Education.

The report offers a foundation of research for the discipline of threat assessment, a growing facet of college administration that seeks to predict and prevent Virginia Tech-style attacks. On April 16, 2007, Tech student Seung Hui Cho, 23, killed 32 people and himself. “This is the first time that anybody has identified in any kind of comprehensive way the uptick in these violent acts over the course of decades,” said Barry Spodak, an expert on threat assessment. The analysis found that three-fifths of campus attacks in a 108-year span occurred in the past two decades: 79 in the 1990s, and 83 in the 2000s through 2008. The report attributes the surge to the growing campus populations and expanding media coverage; the past two decades have also seen increased federal requirements for colleges to report crimes.

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