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DoJ Study Examines Campus Law Enforcement

March 20, 2008

Not surprisingly, a far greater percentage of four-year public college and university law enforcement agencies employ sworn officers than do those at independent institutions (93 percent vs. 42 percent). A sworn officer has full arrest powers granted by a state or local government. Agencies with sworn officers were in turn much more likely to arm their force, with almost 9 out of 10 armed, as opposed to 1 in 10 at agencies that have no sworn officers. Both measures have increased compared to data from the 1994-95 school year.

A wealth of information about campus police forces and campus crime rates is available in a recent report, "Campus Law Enforcement, 2004-05," from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).  Changes over the last ten years are highlighted. The bureau surveyed law enforcement agencies serving four-year institutions with enrollments of 2,500 or more, and two-year public colleges with at least 10,000 students. The results reported concentrate on the responses from four-year colleges and universities, with greater detail available on the BJS web site for community college results.

Among the findings:

  • Campus crime rates fell sharply between 1994 and 2004. Violent crime on campuses decreased by 9 percent and property crimes by 30 percent. Campus crime rates are far lower than nationwide rates, with campuses reporting 62 violent crimes per 100,000 students compared to 466 per 100,000 generally. Similarly, property crimes occur on campuses at a rate of 1,625 per 100,000 versus 3,517 per 100,000 nationwide.
  • On average, private institutions have:
    o Significantly higher crime rates, with almost double the rate for violent crimes compared to public institutions
    o More full-time law enforcement employees per student, with 4.7 per 1,000 students versus 3.8 at public institutions
    o Half the students and half as much land as public institutions, but a higher percentage of students living in on-campus housing (32 percent versus 21 percent)
  • Almost all campuses provide 24-hour patrol services, 911 or 611 emergency dialing, and blue-light security phone systems.
  • The vast majority of campus law enforcement agencies had written emergency plans (94 percent), although only 58 percent reported conducting emergency preparedness exercises.
  • A sixth of sworn officers on college campuses are women, increasing from 14 to 17 percent over the past decade. Minorities now constitute 30 percent of full-time sworn officers, up from 27 percent in 1994.