Interactive Map: Tracking Crime at NJ’s Post-Secondary Schools

Colleen O'Dea | September 26, 2014 | Education, Map of the Week, Maps
Princeton had highest rate of reported sexual offenses; burglaries are most frequent campus crime

The map shows crime and incident data for all post-secondary schools receiving federal student aid under Title IV with at least 100 students and at least 1 incident. Move the map and zoom to find schools in cities with multiple campuses.

The total number of crimes on New Jersey campuses has remained relatively stable between 2010 and 2012, but the number of sexual assaults has risen by 38 percent over that time, according to federal data.

The issue of sexual assaults on college campuses has been in the news recently. The U.S. Department of Education last spring announced its investigation of 55 schools, including Princeton University, for possible violations of federal law regarding the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints. And the White House last Friday unveiled a public-service campaign called “It’s On Us” aimed at preventing sexual assaults.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education — reported by colleges to comply with the federal Clery Act, named after a college freshman who was raped and murdered by a fellow student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania — there were 98 sexual assaults at 204 New Jersey post-secondary schools in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. That was slightly higher than the 93 reported in 2011 and significantly more than the 71 in 2010.

The data shows that over those three years, Princeton had the largest number of reported sexual offenses – 56 — either on-campus or at off-campus facilities owned by the school or a student organization. Rutgers’ main New Brunswick campus, with a student population about five times larger than Princeton’s, had 43 reported sexual offenses, including one occurring on public property either on or adjacent to the campus, between 2010 and 2012. During the same time period, Ramapo College reported 17 assaults, all on campus.

Martin Mbugua, a Princeton spokesman, said the university “will continue to cooperate with the Office of Civil Rights” as part of the investigation that began in 2010. He noted that the being one of the schools being investigated does not mean that the university has been cited for violating the law. According to a press release from the university, the Princeton faculty earlier this month approved changes in policies and procedures for addressing sexual misconduct issues designed to ensure Princeton is in full compliance with federal Title IX requirements. The Council of the Princeton University Community, which includes administration, faculty and student members, is expected to consider the policy changes on Monday.

Sexual offenses were the second-most-common crimes occurring at the state’s post-secondary schools, according to an NJ Spotlight analysis of the data that colleges and other schools receiving federal aid under Title IV must report each year to the federal DOE.

Overall, there were 2,152 crimes in 2010-12 at schools with an enrollment of at least 100 students: two murders, 1,127 burglaries, 261 sexual assaults, 259 robberies, 235 vehicle thefts, 227 aggravated assaults and 39 arsons. There were 708 reported crimes in 2012, down from 744 in 2011 but up from 700 in 2010.

There were 121 hate crimes during the three-year period, 38 of which occurred in 2012. Vandalism was the most common hate crime, followed by intimidation, but there were also six simple assaults and one aggravated assault. One-third of the hate crimes were racially motivated, according to the report, while about one-fifth each were linked to religion or sexual orientation.

The schools reported a total of 3,370 arrests over the three years, with about half for alcohol violations, 1,584 for drug offenses and 114 for carrying weapons.

By far, the largest category of reports was for disciplinary actions taken in cases in which an arrest was not made. Of the 15,252 disciplinary actions between 2010 and 2012, the overwhelming majority were for violating school rules regarding alcohol possession or consumption — 86 percent of all cases. About 13 percent were for drug infractions and less than 1 percent of arrests were for weapon possession.

Abigail Boyer, assistant executive director of programs with the Clery Center for Security on Campus, said the federal law originally was meant to “increase transparency” about crime and safety on college campuses. The Clery Act also requires schools, each October 1, to release a report on campus safety and security, which allows students and their families to “look beyond the numbers” and see the policies and procedures in place to keep students safe and guide them should they become the victim of a crime.

Because the colleges and other post-secondary schools vary in where they are located and enrollment, comparing crimes and incidents on the campuses is difficult. Boyer also said comparisons may not be valid, as the numbers may not paint a complete picture of all the incidents that occur, but may do a better job of showing how a school responds to crimes and violations of rules.

“A school with a higher number of reports may not be less safe, but it may be that they are more proactive in dealing with incidents,” she said.

In terms of sheer numbers, Rutgers-New Brunswick — the largest college in New Jersey, with more than 40,000 enrolled students — had the most crimes, arrests and incidents of all types.

Of schools with at least 100 students, the one with the highest rate of crimes was Fox Institute of Business, a Clifton school with 502 students, which in 2012 had a crime rate of nearly 30 per 1,000 students. The highest arrest rate was 11.5 per 1,000 at The College of New Jersey in Ewing, while Drew University in Madison had the highest rate of disciplinary actions, with 149 per 1,000.