Most Dangerous College Campuses In America

The U.S. is rife with college campuses — not to mention danger and the various types of crimes that take place on said campuses. Much to the disappointment of police procedural television shows, most of the crime perpetrated on college campuses is of the thieving variety. The FBI's 2019 data of known U.S. crime by college and university shows high numbers among property crime, larceny, theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and robbery across the country, which are all effectively different words for stealing (or the prelude to stealing, in the case of burglary) someone else's belongings.

Though these schools all have large amounts of students and therefore may not seem that bad in comparison to schools with fewer students, this data covers only known, reported incidents. Many rapes, for example, are not reported; reports don't make their way through proper channels in time, or not at all (via National Sexual Violence Resource Center). Also, though the student population data from the FBI is from 2018, the FBI's crime data is from the year after.

Many of these schools are in large urban cities; it's also possible that crime is simply generally higher in cities than in more rural areas. Throughout history, that has often been the case. Regardless, here are some of the more dangerous American college campuses, as well as the reasons as to why they're dangerous.

Arizona State University, Main Campus (Phoenix, AZ)

In 2019, according to FBI university crime data, ASU was the second-highest school for larceny (667 cases) and was fifth-highest in violent crime (49 cases). The school also had high numbers of property crime (739 cases), with 127,582 students. ASU also recorded 21 reported rapes that year.

According to the State Press, ASU's annual crime statistics report found that there were over twice as many reported rape cases in 2019 when compared to 2018. While announcing the report, ASU executive vice president Morgan Olson wrote, ​​"ASU maintains its commitment to battling complex social problems, such as sexual assault, sexual harassment and drug and alcohol abuse" (via the State Press). Though numbers were going up, the university was working on the problem.

And they seem to have been successful on that front. The university's 2020 annual crime statistics report saw crime decrease across the board, writes the State Press, though there were high numbers among drug, alcohol, and weapon arrests. 

UC Davis (Davis, CA)

UC Davis had the highest numbers of larceny and theft (794 cases) and property crime (906 cases) in 2019, with 39,783 students, according to the FBI's data. As one of the top cycling cities in the U.S. — as well as a city and school where students often commute — bicycle theft is a real problem, writes Simple Bike Insurance. According to the city of Davis' bicycle theft analysis report from 2009 to 2021, the vast majority of bicycles stolen were from UC Davis' campus. For commuter students, bicycles are a quick, cheap way to get to and from class — until their transportation itself gets stolen, of course.

UC Davis itself thinks students aren't taking enough care with their bikes when checking to make sure they're properly locked up. The university's Transportation Services office wrote a primer for anyone worried about bike safety, and it noted just how easy it is to slice through a cable lock, particularly a cheap one. The Transportation Services office also noted that it's unwise to leave bikes parked for more than a few days, as that can indicate abandonment and lead to subsequent thievery.

UC Davis — due to its status as a commuter school — knows what its main larceny problem is, meaning they can do their best to combat it. Unfortunately, people are often looking for things they can sell to make a quick dollar, and bikes and bike parts are definitely on that list.

UCLA (Los Angeles, CA)

UCLA is such a large, major school on the West Coast that it often turns up with the dangerous label. Unfortunately for the school, that label is usually there for a very good reason. UCLA had the most burglaries in 2019 (132 cases), according to the FBI's data, and it was also second-highest in aggravated assault records (58 cases). UCLA had the second-highest amount of violent crime (89 cases) with 46,592 students.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, rape and aggravated assault reports both rose drastically in 2016. Officials believed the recent increased access to outreach programs and presentations in turn led to an increase in reporting sexual violence. Reports of sexual assault further increased the next school year as well, writes the Daily Bruin. Increasing awareness of reporting and access to where someone can report such an action clearly helped UCLA's students feel more at ease when dealing with on-campus problems. Another positive is that in the same year, arrests for liquor violations decreased dramatically.

Though no murders took place in 2019, UCLA was witness to professor William Klug's murder in 2016, as he was shot by a former student (via Los Angeles Daily News). Depressingly, large schools can be slightly terrifying places due to the crimes that can — and do — occur.

University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)

According to the FBI's 2019 university crime data, the University of New Mexico had the most aggravated assault (84 cases) and violent crime (100 cases) of all schools on the list, with 30,280 students. UMN also has 14 rapes listed for 2019.

The New Mexico News Port also wrote, according 2019 data, that rapes appeared to be on the rise since 2011 at the university. However, there were newer channels for reporting rapes, and resources themselves had undergone a review by university officials. Reports of domestic violence and stalking had also risen, though aggravated assault had decreased somewhat.

Though tudents and campus police officers both felt the campus was a very safe place, security company claimed that UNM was the second-most dangerous college campus in 2019, writes KOAT. City councilor Pat Davis, who used to be a UNM police officer, said (via KOAT), "As Albuquerque crime goes up, it is not a surprise that crime at a university urban setting is going to go up," proving that the city and the university's crime are connected. And the city of Albuquerque does have its own problems with crime. According to the city's crime statistics for 2019, thievery numbers are high, particularly among motor vehicle thieves.

UC Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

In 2019, UC Berkeley had the highest robbery numbers at 22 cases and the second-highest numbers of property crime at 763 cases, according to the FBI's university crime data. The school was also third-highest in violent crime (70 cases) with 44,235 students. UC Berkeley is a large, wealthy school, and therefore these numbers aren't necessarily surprising. A large school could gives ample opportunities for people to steal different kinds of things, either to keep or sell. It's also fairly close to San Francisco, a major U.S. city which Stanford University thought deserving of the title "Nearly the Most Crime-Ridden City in the U.S." So, you know, that doesn't help.

Though the city of Berkeley usually averages one robbery per day, according to Berkeleyside, in early November 2021, the school was hit with a string of robberies. UC Berkeley's campus is so spread out that it made it easy for all four would-be robbers to flee on foot in various directions. In August 2021, two Berkeley students were almost robbed while out walking, but they were able to get away, writes Kron4. In this case, being able to get away quickly and safely was the goal — and it was achieved.

UC Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)

At 37 reported cases, UCSB was listed as having the highest number of reported rapes in 2019. According to FBI university crime data, the school also had the fourth-highest amount of violent crime with 61 cases and 26,561 students. UCSB has never had the greatest reputation, and the numbers seem to back that up.

The Santa Barbara Independent reported in August 2021 that a rape investigation found at least three victims of rapes that occurred between October 2020 and June 2021, with the possibility of more among the university's community. With the onset of COVID-19, there were fewer students living in the university's neighborhood of Isla Vista or on campus; therefore, there were fewer students to notice if something went wrong with someone else.

Daily Nexus also noted that UCSB has experienced a rise in reported rapes, stalking, and domestic violence since 2015. It is, however, highly possible that the increased reported numbers are from students feeling more comfortable with reporting what happened to them. However, Emily Montalvo-Telford, director of Students Against Sexual Assault, said the numbers still "nowhere represent the actual numbers of assaults that happen in Isla Vista and on the UCSB campus," (via Daily Nexus). Depressingly, it could simply be that the reports are beginning to catch up to the reality of the situation.

University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)

In 2019, the University of Arizona had the fifth-highest larceny numbers at 597 cases, among 48,318 students, writes the 2019 FBI university crime data. According to Tuscon Police Data and Analysis, larceny and car theft were the most commonly reported crimes in 2018 in the city. 

Kold News 13 also reported a rise in motor vehicle theft in 2018 among the University of Arizona's community. (Liquor law violations also rapidly increased over the same period.) This isn't a new problem, though, and the University of Arizona has been battling larceny among its community for a long time. Despite the increase of tracking cameras, students still have their belongings stolen with little hope of regaining them (via Tucson). Hopefully, with the threat making itself known in the wider city as well as campus, more effective measures will be put in place to protect citizens' and students' belongings. As it stands now — good luck.

At the very least, burglary numbers in 2018 dropped slightly, as did reports of sexual offenses, so there is that bit of a bright side.

Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)

Virginia Commonwealth University, with 586 cases, had the sixth-highest counts of larceny of all the schools on the FBI's 2019 university crime list, with 33,636 students overall. Even into 2021, local news would often note that Virginia Commonwealth University police were searching for someone accused of theft (via NBC12 and NBC12). VCU News has also gotten in on it, informing the public, not to mention university students, of the details of larceny crimes and asking for help in identifying suspects.

VCU itself tells its community that larceny is one of its worst crimes, and it cautions students and staff to make sure all their belongings and vehicles are secure before leaving (via VCU). Police have also been known to increase patrols after a crime in a particular neighborhood, according to a recounting of a motor vehicle theft via ABC8 News. VCU and its community, like other schools, clearly knows what the problem is, and is working to eradicate it — trying to succeed, however difficult that task may be.

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)

The University of Michigan had the ninth-highest number of property crime in 2019, according to the FBI's crime data, with 523 cases among 47,543 students. Overall, according to Michigan Live, crime on the university's campus has gone down in recent years. On the other hand, sexual harassment reports have risen.

According to Cleary Crime statistics for 2020, 2019, and 2018 for the Ann Arbor campus, liquor and drug law violations were high, while most other crime numbers were very low. The university's public safety division, like other schools, provided a list of ways to keep people and their belongings safe (via DPSS). Reporting suspicious behavior, as mentioned, is an excellent way to help stop trouble before it starts.

The University of Michigan is dealing with the same problems and crimes as many other universities; however, based on the Cleary Crime statistics, they seem to be doing something right.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN)

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities had the fifth-highest numbers of property crime in 2019, with 667 cases and 64,115 students, according to the FBI's university crime data. Come 2020, the Minnesota Daily analyzed data and saw that thievery in all its various forms rose across university neighborhoods throughout the year.

In May 2021, property crime exploded in the university's area of Dinkytown, then began tapering off throughout the rest of the year, writes the Minnesota Daily. The reason for that probably comes from more police officers and cameras being present on campus after May. The university also instituted the addition of more blue light kiosks, which alerted either the university police or the Minneapolis police after being used.

Minneapolis is the largest city in Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is a large, public university, known for its top research opportunities. It's clear police are taking the issue of thieving seriously, and these measures will hopefully work in the long term.

University of Washington (Seattle, WA)

The University of Washington, with 616 cases, had the seventh-highest amount of reported property crime spread among 55,508 students, according to 2019 FBI university data. From 2011 to 2015, the U.S. Department of Education also noticed the numbers of burglaries going up at the university, writes Daily UW. Thieves aren't letting multiple hurdles stop them, either. Students have had their belongings stolen from locked storage containers in the basements of university buildings, for example (via Daily UW). 

Seattle as a whole has also had an issue with property crime for a long time. Additionally, the economic inequality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may cause the problem to worsen, writes the Seattle Spectator. Prior to the Seattle mayoral race, both candidates put property crime and homelessness towards the top of their agendas for the city. Time will tell how well changes help the issues Seattle faces — and has faced in the past.

According to the Seattle Spectator, the top worst districts of the city in regards to property crime are Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, and Northgate. Luckily for UW students, the university is in the University District of the city. Still, it's better to be safe than sorry.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte, NC)

UNC at Charlotte witnessed the highest number of murders (two) at a university in 2019 during an April 30 shooting that also saw four students injured. With 33,673 students, UNC was the only school on the FBI's 2019 list to witness multiple murders, unfortunately due to a senseless tragedy.

According to NBC News, 22-year-old Trystan Andrew Terrell was arrested for two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder in April. The school was in lockdown the night of April 30, and police officers went from room to room to confirm who was sheltering in safe places. Per CBS, Terrell had apparently "researched" the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and had planned this action for months (though his exact motives remain a mystery). That September, he pled guilty and was sentenced to two lifetime sentences in prison, as opposed to the death penalty (via WBTV).

21-year-old Riley Howell was shot and killed by Terrell. His girlfriend's father read a letter to the court from his daughter at the time of sentencing. "I'm not in the room with the defendant today because he is not worth my time, my energy or my thoughts. After today, I will never think of him again," she wrote (via WBTV). "He will not be missed, he's not worth that recognition. However, he will be forgotten."