Campsu Crime

Which Philadelphia university is the safest? Where is crime the worst? The data will surprise you

Which of the six Philly colleges is the safest — Temple, Penn, Drexel, La Salle, Villanova or St. Joseph’s?

Temple usually has the worst reputation for campus danger, but suburban Philadelphia schools actually experience more reported crime. In terms of the number of crimes reported, St. Joseph’s University and Villanova rank first and second — with Penn, Drexel, Temple and LaSalle following, in that order.

Billy Penn used data the schools must file annually under the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting law from the years 2011-2013. We compared overall crime rates, sexual assault, liquor violations, crime trends over the last few years and more. To compare them accurately we calculated the rates by dividing the totals by each university’s FTE (full-time enrollment of students and faculty), based upon a population of 1,000 students.

Overall crime

The crime totals filed under Uniform Crime Act deal with just about every violation reported on and near campus, defined as “a reasonably contiguous geographic area.” Think “reasonably contiguous” as the bubble. So while areas a few blocks from Temple and Drexel boast higher crime rates than those surrounding Villanova or St. Joseph’s that doesn’t matter here. This is about campus crime. Liquor violations and public drunkenness are not counted in this total (you can check out those below) because even though a $200-plus alcohol fine sucks, it’s hardly in the same category as most of these other crimes. Also: Drexel’s totals are for 2012-2014, rather than 2011-2013 like the other five universities. Drexel is also the lone university to have a reported murder in this timeframe.

In which particular categories do the suburban schools see more crime than Philly’s urban schools? Here’s a comparison of Villanova and Penn based on reported crimes at the schools in 2013. When it comes to violent crimes, the schools aren’t all that different. Penn had more reported robberies, Villanova more reported rapes but otherwise things were about even. Villanova has many more incidences of drug violations, disorderly conduct, fraud and especially vandalism.

That’s also the case with St. Joseph’s, where 123 acts of vandalism were reported in 2013. But when you take vandalism out of the equation, the rankings and differences between the six universities don’t change by much. Villanova and St. Joseph’s still lead the pack, big-time.

Here’s one reason why these schools may have so many reported crimes: On-campus housing. At Villanova, 70 percent of students live in university-owned housing, according to U.S. News and World Report. Sixty percent do at St. Joseph’s. At Penn, that number is 54 percent, at Drexel 26 percent, LaSalle 55 percent and Temple 18 percent. More Villanova and St. Joseph’s students are around the campus full-time, and thus are more likely to do something illegal or be targets of serious crime.

Sexual assault and relationship violence

Villanova and St. Joseph’s have the most reported sexual assaults, too. Keep in mind that most sexual assaults go unreported and a higher number of sexual assaults could mean a better climate in which survivors of sexual assault are more comfortable coming forward, rather than an environment where sexual assault is more prevalent.

Nationally, reporting of sexual assaults at colleges has gone up substantially in the last several years. The numbers from Penn, Drexel and Villanova illustrate that rise as well. The number of sexual assaults reported at these three schools in 2013 is 254 percent higher than it was in 2008.

In 2013, universities were mandated to start classifying certain crimes as domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. There were a handful of these cases at all six of the colleges — except for Villanova. The school reported 35 incidences of stalking. Why such a high number? Don’t worry, it’s not because Villanova is stalker central. David Tedjeske, director of public safety, said one particular individual was linked to several cases. He also said reporting stalking incidences can vary depending on how the campus police departments classify them.

Drugs/liquor

Penn recently ranked as Playboy’s No. 1 party school in the country. Maybe it’s because the students get away with seemingly everything when it comes to alcohol and drugs! The school ranked lowest by far when it came to violations per 1,000, and even in the aggregate it ranked lower than Drexel and St. Joseph’s despite being twice the size of Drexel and nearly seven times the size of St. Joseph’s. Party hard, Quakers. Party hard.

Is crime rising or falling? 

In the last three years, reported crime at all six of the schools has stayed about the same or fallen slightly. Looking at Temple and Penn over a longer period, reported crime has fallen about 20 percent and 10 percent respectively as enrollments have stayed about the same or risen.

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