Heading off to college can be an exhilarating time for students: they’re embarking on a new chapter of their lives and on their way to establishing their careers. But the transition to college also comes with several factors that parents and students both need to be aware of, with one being violent crime.
While the number of property crimes outweighs violent crime incidents on college campuses, the threat is there. Students have to understand that living away from home on their own requires awareness and preparedness in many life situations, including events, peer gatherings, date nights, and many more.
But to provide insight on colleges and college towns with significant violent crimes, as well as those with fewer incidents, we’ve put together lists and observations of trends we’ve noticed.
10 College Towns With the Most Violent Crimes (2008-2018)
Editorial note: While we’ve compiled a list of colleges and cities with reported violent crimes, this list does not mean that these colleges or cities are inherently dangerous for students. We intend for this list to inform readers, not to be used as a directive or a direct indicator of college campus or city safety.
Based on our analysis of the FBI’s data, we found the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to have the most reported violent crimes from 2008-2018, with almost 82 crimes per year. Since UCLA had the most reported violent crimes to law enforcement, Los Angeles ranked No. 1 of all cities we’ve listed.
Thirty-three aggravated assaults, 28 rape incidents, and 11 robberies were reported in 2018. According to the 2019 UCLA Annual Security & Fire Safety Report, no murders or nonnegligent manslaughters were recorded in 2018. The report also found an increase in the number of sexual assaults (57 for 2018 vs. 41 for 2017) and a slight increase in aggravated assaults (19 for 2018 vs. 18 for 2017).
According to LAist, both UCLA and Cal State Fullerton acknowledged that one potential reason for an increase in the number of rape incidents is partially due to the advocacy for victims to speak up. Police Captain Scot Wiley of Cal State Fullerton said,
“We really want them to talk about it because the worst thing that can possibly be done is not to talk about it…What we try to get out to our community is that we are also a place of resources.”
Wiley’s statement highlights concern and advocacy for victims of sexual assault to speak up. The Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges to be transparent in reporting campus crime.
What Are Violent Crimes?
The FBI defines violent crimes as those “that involve force or [the] threat of force.” The four violent crimes identified by the FBI are (1) aggravated assault, (2) rape, (3) robbery, and (4) murder and nonnegligent manslaughter.
Want More Data? Here’s a Full List of the Top 25 College Towns With the Most Violent Crimes (2008-2018)
When we considered the top 25 college towns with the most violent crimes from 2008-2018, we found southeastern universities and their corresponding cities to dominate. These are the nine southeastern cities recorded in order from greatest to least in violent crimes:
- Tallahassee, Fla.
- Morgantown, W. Va.
- Nashville, Tenn.
- Birmingham, Ala.
- Baton Rouge, La.
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Columbia, S.C.
- Orlando, Fla.
- Athens, Ga.
Tallahassee’s Florida State University (FSU) campus had the most violent crimes over the ten-year period (144) out of all other southeastern cities. Tallahassee was named one of Florida’s most dangerous cities this year by the Florida Daily.
The city does have significant violent crime. FSU News reported in 2019 that more shootings had taken place than the previous year: “2019 has witnessed no shortage of violent crime, with 55 shootings leaving 15 dead and more than twice that injured.”
While FSU employs mechanisms to help protect students, like light poles with emergency phones, the FSU Police Department still warns students that it’s their responsibility to make wise decisions and speak up when they witness something wrong: “Limit your distractions, use technology as an ally and not an anchor, know your surroundings, avoid dark areas, and have a plan….Awareness matters – if you see something, say something.”
Rick Musson, a law enforcement officer of Bozeman, Mont. and consultant for FreeAdvice.com told us that alcohol and drugs are influential factors in violent crimes on campuses.
“We focus patrol of bars that cater to college students and housing developments that are common college part spots. By being present, we’re able to discourage escalated situations.” Musson also mentioned that violent crime is decreasing in Bozeman.
What About College Towns With the Fewest Violent Crimes?
These universities had less than 10 reported violent crimes to law enforcement over this period. It’s also worth noting that while Los Angeles had the most violent crimes, with Santa Maria making our list for the least violent crimes, this shows that population, urbanization, and culture could potentially play a role in the number of violent crimes.
Methodology: How Did We Rank College Towns For Violent Crimes?
For College Towns with the Most Violent Crimes
To determine our lists of college towns with the most violent crimes, we reviewed data from the FBI’s Offenses Known to Law Enforcement tables for Universities and Colleges. We analyzed data over a 10-year period, from 2008 to 2018. The cities with universities that had the most reported violent crimes in this time period were selected.
For College Towns with the Least Violent Crimes
To determine college towns with the least violent crimes, we reviewed and analyzed the same tables from 2008 to 2018, looking for universities with the least reported violent crimes over this time period. The cities with universities that had the least reported violent crimes were selected.