SIU ranks in unsafe colleges list

Carbondale campus places 15th among 25 universities

Some students and faculty are surprised at the university’s new spot on a top 25 dangerous universities list.

On Nov. 20, an online publication called Business Insider released an article titled “The Most Dangerous Colleges in America,” which ranked schools with enrollments of more than 10,000.

The report averaged FBI crime data per capita that included incidents both on and around college campuses from 2008-2011. FBI data is based crime data that is voluntarily reported by colleges. Although, many colleges participate in the program, some do not, according to the article.

For the list, schools were listed based on violent crime rank and property crime rank, with violent crime weighted four times higher.

The FBI crime data classifies murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault as violent crimes. Property crimes include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson.

At the No. 15 spot, SIUC averaged 16 violent crimes and 291 property crimes per year, according to the article. It also reported three forcible rapes during 2011.

The only other Illinois university listed was Western Illinois University, which was ranked 20th. The University of California, Los Angeles was listed as the most dangerous college campus in America.

Todd Sigler, chief of the SIU Department of Public Safety, directed all media questions to Rod Sievers, university spokesperson.

“I don’t think it represents our college well,” Sievers said. “I think we need to look at the methodology of the rankings.”

Sievers said he wondered why universities in big cities such as New York University and the University of Illinois in Chicago were not on the list.

“The property crime rate is high, but if you look at the statistics from other universities in Illinois, SIU is no different from them,” Sievers said.

He said this list is not comprehensive because it does not include the different types of property crimes.

“They seem to be crimes of opportunity rather than random crimes,” Sievers said. “This ranking is suspect. I don’t put much credence in this list.”

Sievers said the university’s police emphasize campus safety.

“We take safety very seriously, and our police here at SIU are very proactive on campus,” he said. “A lot of it does not make sense because SIU makes some lists like this but then does not make others. There is no consistency.”

Tammy Kochel, an assistant professor in criminology and criminal justice, said the article was not clear on whether it took into account the campus population specifically, or whether it included the city of Carbondale’s population, which would affect the ratio-calculating equation.

“I would be surprised if this ranking was true, if it was relative to the number of students,” she said.

Darcie Shinberger, WIU spokesperson, also said she was surprised at the list’s ranking.

“Obviously we never want to be put on a list that says we are one of the most dangerous colleges in the country or anything negative like that,” Shinberger said.

She said WIU has increased police patrols on campus, and the university has seen a 25-percent decrease in residence hall thefts this year.

“We have police out and about on campus, and they have a strong presence,” Shinberger said. “They are on patrol in the residence halls and all high-traffic areas on campus.”

Shinberger said students are becoming smarter on college campuses to avoid being crime victims.

“I think that there is a growing awareness in how people should act to avoid theft, and students are more apt to report because they see police around campus,” she said.

She said WIU labels acquaintance assaults or stranger assaults as violent crimes, which is a factor the list did not include.

“If you look at our recent reports in past years, we have had zero stranger assaults,” Shinberger said.

She said she does not predict WIU to be on future lists such as this one.

“Our police here are hard at work to lower crime rates,” she said.

Darell Johnson, a senior from Chicago studying agribusiness economics, said he also disagreed with the university’s rank on the list. He said the university has become safer since his freshmen year, and he rarely feels endangered.

“It is a like a comfort zone or a home away from home here,” he said.

Stephanie Feeman, a senior from St. Louis studying elementary education, said she does not think SIU should have made the list at all.

“I walk to and from campus every day and have never seen anything suspicious,” she said.

Although the list ranked colleges based on an average of crimes over a three-year period, information from the university shows the number of crimes reported have varied over recent years.

A report released by the SIU Department of Public Safety, as required by the Clery Act, shows the number of burglary, arson, aggravated assault, and forcible sexual assaults reported on campus since 2009 and shows a varied pattern of crimes over the years.

The report cites 73 cases of burglary, seven aggravated assaults, six forcible sexual offenses, four robberies and three arson cases during 2011. It also cites 46 cases of burglary, eight aggravated assaults, three forcible sexual offenses, six robberies and no arson cases reported in 2010. In 2009, the report states there were 64 cases of burglary, five aggravated assaults, six forcible sexual offenses, four robberies and three arson cases reported.

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