According to a recent report on three years’ worth of crime statistics from universities across the nation, college campuses are generally safer places than the larger communities in which they are located.
The report, released by the Department of Education to Congress in January, states “The campus crime statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Education suggest that our nation’s campuses are safe. In nearly every category of crime for which data were collected, college campuses showed a lower incidence of crime than comparable data for the nation as a whole.”
Director of Public Safety Gene McAbee agrees with this statement in terms of WCU’s crime rate, compared with that of Cullowhee and the whole of Jackson County.
As far as serious crimes, such as murder and aggravated assault, are concerned, said McAbee, WCU is safer than the surrounding community.
While in 1999 there were 123 aggravated assaults and three homicides committed in Jackson County, there were only two aggravated assaults and no homicides committed on campus.
McAbee said that more sexual assaults are reported on campus than off campus because students are more likely to report sexual assault than non-students. Even so, the FBI estimates that only ten percent of the sexual assaults that occur are reported to law enforcement.
McAbee also said that if you compare WCU with larger universities, which are typically located in more urban counties, WCU is safer because a large metropolitan area does not surround it.
However, even if this is the case, rural schools like WCU have a better chance of having a higher campus crime rate than the surrounding community because regardless of where the school is located, criminals are usually leery of campus law enforcement.
“It would be more likely for a rural school to come out with higher crime statistics than the surrounding area than a metropolitan school,” said McAbee. “There is something about a campus boundary, there’s a psychological barrier even if there isn’t a wall.”
McAbee went on to explain that since most campus security officials know students by face, even if they don’t know them by name, the officers can recognize more quickly someone who looks suspicious and is not a student and tend to ask what they are doing on campus. This vigilance on the part of campus security keeps most criminals from having any desire to come to a college campus to commit crime.