Crime Worries Rise on Campus

17-to-22-year-olds are highest-victimized group in society - and largest group of perpetrators


Apr. 2--Laura Dickinson was like a lot of college students -- sweet, trusting, kind. Her friend Jamie Fix certainly never thought Dickinson could die in her Hill Hall dorm room at the hands of another Eastern Michigan University student, as police have charged.

"I miss her so much," said Fix, an education major from Newport who was on the novice rowing team with Dickinson before she was killed in December. On Friday, a Ypsilanti judge ordered an EMU student, Orange Taylor III, 20, of Southfield, to stand trial on open murder and two first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges in connection with Dickinson's death.

The case has many students and parents taking a closer look at safety on college and university campuses, an issue of particular importance for the thousands of students currently making decisions about where to enroll.

Some may not weigh the issue of campus safety when they make those choices. But officials at Security on Campus, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization that advocates for accurate crime reporting and for safer campuses, say Dickinson's slaying shows that they should.

On its Web site -- -- it has a link for parents and students to search a federal database of crime statistics for colleges and universities around the country. Under federal law, any institution where students are eligible to take part in federal financial aid programs must compile annual reports of crimes on campus.

The nature of campuses

S. Daniel Carter, vice president of Security on Campus, said it's difficult to compare campus crime to lawbreaking in the general population. But he said the demographics of college campuses make them a hotbed for certain types of crimes -- including sexual assault and alcohol and drug use.

New students come and go every semester and campuses are chock-full of young adults living on their own and making decisions without their parents' help for the first time.

"The 17-to-22-year-old age group is the highest-victimized group in society -- and they're also the largest group of perpetrators," said Bill Whitman, director of public safety at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie.

One of the biggest problems for campus police is getting students to understand the importance of locking their doors and never walking away from their belongings when they're at the library or dining hall.

At Wayne State University, Lt. Dave Scott said most items are stolen when a student at the library gets up and temporarily leaves behind a purse or laptop.

In February alone, five cars, four cell phones, two campus ID cards, three backpacks, seven laptops, three purses, a passport, four wallets with cash, two digital music players and one set of keys were stolen on campus, he said.

"It's the easiest crime to prevent and the toughest to solve," he said. Scott compiles a monthly crime report that is e-mailed to students, staff, faculty and some neighborhood associations.

Serious situation

When it comes to sexual assault and rape, one of the biggest challenges is underreporting. Many victims of sexual assault don't come forward. Many are too upset or fear being blamed for the attack.

According to federal numbers, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor had the most reports of forcible sexual assault of any public university in the state in 2005, with 24. Next on the list was Michigan State University, with 14, and EMU was third, with 10 in 2005, the last year for which numbers are available.

This content continues onto the next page...