Actually, UR’s crime rate tops VCU’s

October 12, 2013

By Ajong Mbapndah

The question sounds like a no-brainer: Which school has the higher crime rate — gritty-urban VCU or posh-bucolic University of Richmond?

The answer is counterintuitive: U of R had a higher crime rate than VCU did last year, according to an analysis of data released recently by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI data said the University of Richmond, a private school with 4,348 students, reported 100 major crimes. That works out to 23 crimes per 1,000 students.

The FBI’s database said VCU, which had 31,627, reported 566 major crimes — 18.6 per 1,000 students.

Take that, Spiders!

As is often the case in statistics, the devil is in the details.

The FBI defines major crimes as murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, “forcible rape,” robbery and aggravated assault (the four violent crimes) and burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft (the three property crimes reported by most police departments).

The University of Richmond didn’t have any violent crimes last year, according to the FBI’s “Crime in the United States 2012” data set, released in September. But U of R had 18 burglaries, 77 larceny-thefts and five vehicle thefts. (The university, located in Richmond’s West End, also had one arson, but the FBI doesn’t include that in the overall crime total.)

VCU, on the other hand, had 21 violent crimes — seven robberies and 14 aggravated assaults, according to the FBI data. VCU also had 566 property crimes: 16 burglaries, 540 larceny-thefts and 10 vehicle thefts. (VCU also recorded one arson.)

The FBI data set included statistics on 25 schools in Virginia. Christopher Newport University had the highest crime rate, with 32.5 crimes per 1,000 students. Then came Ferrum College with a rate of 31.1 crimes per 1,000; Virginia Military Institute, at 28 crimes per 1,000; and the College of William and Mary, with 25.7 crimes per 1,000 students.

Of the 25 Virginia colleges and universities in the FBI data, VCU ranked No. 8 in the overall crime rate.

At the other end of the scale, some schools reported very little crime.

Lord Fairfax Community College earned bragging rights as the safest University in Virginia. It reported just one crime (a larceny-theft) among its 7,270 students.

Also reporting less than 1 crime per 1,000 students were Northern Virginia Community College, Virginia Western Community College and Thomas Nelson Community College.

Northern Virginia Community College has more than 50,000 students and reported 31 crimes — 0.6 per 1,000 students. That was the lowest crime rate among the 142 U.S. schools with at least 20,000 students, according to a computer analysis by VCU’s Computer-Assisted Reporting class.

On that list, VCU ranked 12th. But its crime rate was about the same as several other large urban universities. Harvard, for instance, had a higher crime rate (20.2 crimes per 1,000 students) than VCU. VCU’s crime rate was similar to the rates of Georgia Tech, the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois, Rutgers and several University of California campuses.

Spreadsheet of crime statistics for each college or university

This article is a “Data Drop brief” — a quick-hit posting based on analysis by students in MASC 644 Computer-Assisted Reporting. The exercise involved downloading the latest FBI data; cleaning up the table to correct unusual formatting; calculating crimes rates; and then sorting and filtering the results.