Thousands of college students are gearing up for their glorious return to campus, so we decided to revisit a question we asked a few years ago: Which Philly college campus is the safest?
In February 2015, Billy Penn uncovered some results that didn’t jibe with the stereotype that urban campuses are less safe than their suburban counterparts. In fact, we found that in terms of the number of crimes reported, St. Joseph’s University and Villanova ranked first and second — with Penn, Drexel, Temple and LaSalle following, in that order.
Using publicly available data filed under federal and state law by each of the six major colleges and universities in the area, we’ve revisited the issue. We used data filed in 2016 under both the Clery Act and Pennsylvania’s Uniform Crime Reporting law to compare each school’s overall crime rates, sex offenses and relationship violence, hate crimes and drugs and alcohol violations. That means we’re talking about data from 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Note: We also adjusted each of those categories based on each school’s FTE (or full-time enrollment of students and faculty) and created rates based on 1,000 students. Here’s what we found:
Overall crime rates
Overall crime totals reported in each school’s annual safety report include basically every crime committed on or reasonably around campus, save for minor drug and alcohol violations. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to those later.) So that means crime rates in the areas surrounding campuses aren’t part of this data. This is all about crime on-campus and very close to campus.
While the overall crime figures below represent all crimes reported that occurred on campus, a large majority of these crimes are very minor, with theft and vandalism making up the largest categories of reported crime.
What we found: The trend of overall crime rates being lower on urban campuses compared to suburban campuses holds up. In 2015, the lowest number of crimes reported was at La Salle, then St. Joe’s, Drexel, Villanova, Temple and Penn, in that order. Importantly, when those figures are adjusted based on the number of students and faculty at each school, the lowest crime rate is actually at Temple, then Drexel, Penn, La Salle, St. Joe’s and Villanova, in that order.
One theory for why this might be the case? Suburban schools tend to have more students living on campus and fewer commuters, thus more chances for crime on the campus itself.
Sexual assault and relationship violence
The below charts compare the number of sex offenses — including forcible rape, fondling and general sex offenses — at each of the schools we analyzed.
An important note on sexual violence: A relatively small number of victims of sexual assault report to police, and experts say higher rates of reported sexual violence on campus can actually be a good thing, as it may indicate a better reporting climate.
Similarly, when it comes to relationship violence, higher numbers can be a good thing, as it can show victims who are often women feel comfortable reporting to authorities. In 2013 under the Violence Against Women Act, colleges across the country were required to begin reporting “relationship violence,” which includes stalking, domestic violence and other dating violence.
Most of the above rates of relationship violence are relatively similar, save for 2013 at Villanova when there were 35 reports of stalking. Officials told Billy Penn there was one individual who was linked to a high number of incidents that year, skewing the data.
Drugs and alcohol violations
Either St. Joe’s students like to party more than others or they just suck at not getting caught. Considering Penn is most often on lists that rank the top party schools in the country, we’re going to assume it’s the latter. Sorry, Hawks.
The following figures show both aggregate and adjusted drug and alcohol violation rates, and it’s worth noting the vast majority of these incidents did not result in arrest, but were instead disciplinary referrals.
When adjusted based on the number of students and faculty, the school with the most drug and alcohol violations in 2015 was St. Joe’s, then Villanova, La Salle, Drexel, Temple and Penn, with the last two being a virtual tie.
Under federal law, colleges and universities are required to report the number and nature of hate crimes reported on campus. The good news is these numbers are relatively low, and Villanova and St. Joe’s both reported zero hate crimes between 2013 and 2015 while La Salle also reported zero in 2014 and 2015. The major outlier is 2015 at Temple when there were 11 reported hate crimes. Of them, six were classified as “intimidation” and five were classified as vandalism.