Campus, News

A look at the past decade of campus crime statistics

Last month, the Boston University Police Department released its Annual Security and Fire Safety Report for 2019. Statistics from the past decade of reports show trends in crimes on the Charles River Campus such as burglaries, liquor and drug law violations, and aggravated assaults.

The Annual Security and Fire Safety Reports detail the security and safety services available to students and staff, information on how to report incidents, as well as statistics regarding various crimes on both the Charles River and Medical campuses from the past three years.

These reports are published according to guidelines set by the Clery Act, a law set to create transparency between students and campus officials around the crimes occurring on college and university campuses around the country.

Arrests and referrals for liquor law violations have fluctuated but are on the decline after peaking in 2014 with 55 arrests and 1,006 referrals. In 2018, there were 25 arrests and 591 referrals.


Peter Shin, BUPD crime analysis and statistics officer, said that though the statistics show an increase in the number of individual violations, the number of incidents may not be accurately reflected.

“What might end up happening is you end up having a situation where you stop a group of three people,” Shin said. “You don’t necessarily have more incidents or offenses, you just have more people involved.”

Referrals for drug law violations steadily increased from 2008 to 2014 — from 38 referrals to 90 referrals — but in 2015 they dropped to zero.

Shin said this is the result of a 2016 Clery Act policy change that no longer classifies small amounts of marijuana possession as drug law violations in states where possession is decriminalized. Massachusetts decriminalized possession of marijuana in 2008.


The number of reported aggravated assaults in 2018 was lower than any given year since 2012. While aggravated assaults peaked at fourteen in 2015, they were down to two in 2018. Robberies have also seen a similar decline.


Shin said he thinks one possible reason for the decrease in aggravated assaults is because criminals are finding it easier and less risky to steal money using scams instead of physical force.

“It’s less risk for the bad guy to call somebody on the phone and say ‘I’m with the IRS,’ give me a gift card or we’re going to send the police to you,” Shin said, “versus being out on the street and actually trying to rob somebody or get into a fight with somebody.”

The Clery Act does not require institutions to publish statistics on scams. The report does, however, state to “Be careful of scam artists. Never accept cash or checks from, or provide check cashing services to, anybody you don’t know.”

Scams can often occur over the phone or via the internet. They typically ask individuals to send money to prevent against harmful legal actions allegedly being taken against them.

A common form of the scam this year targeted international students by telling them that issues have arisen with their legal paperwork and that they need to pay a fee in order to continue their education in the United States, according to BU.

Shin said it is important to prevent these scams by being able to identify one.

“If you do answer the phone and you start engaging with these people, then it becomes a question of how much information you give,” Shin said. “If you start giving your personal information and then you say ‘oh my god, this is a scam, I’m gonna hang up,’ then give us a call and let us know.”

BU Spokesperson Colin Riley said police can’t help much once a student is a victim of a scam.

“It’s also really hard to investigate and resolve and for most students they’re out whatever they handed over to the scammers,” Riley said.

Burglaries have fluctuated around 20 per year since 2012, when the Clery Act definition of burglaries became more narrow, Shin said. In 2018 there were 24 burglaries reported.


Burglaries are unlawful entries into any building with intent to commit a crime, whereas robberies can happen anywhere and are marked by the confrontation and threatening of a victim, but both are considered larcenies, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Most of our larcenies, I look at and consider preventable,” Shin said. “Meaning that the victim, they left something on the table and they walked away from that good for you know, five minutes, ten minutes, 20 minutes and when they came back it was stolen.”

He said students should be vigilant — always taking their valuable items with them and locking up items such as bikes when they cannot look after them.

Anna Frants, a sophomore in the College of Fine Arts, said students at BU might not have first-hand experience with crime before and that could be a potential hazard.

“I think we’ve been seeing a lot more of it lately, especially at night on the weekends,” Frants said. “And I think it’s something to be aware of, especially for people coming from suburban areas, if they’re not used to seeing crime a lot or experiencing it firsthand then it could throw them off a lot more.”

TJ Jayasinghe, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks the freedom that students have in college might cause an increase in alcohol-related incidents.

“I feel like the more and more we age, people become less aware of the effects alcohol have,” Jayasinghe said. “Especially freshmen, because, you know, we have all this new freedom and kind of want to do things that we weren’t able to do.”

Riley said BU students should take actions to lower their risk of being the victim of a crime.

“We want to make sure that the students here know that it’s in their interest to take precautions, be alert, and follow the information that comes to them if they do receive a BU alert,” Riley said. “Take all these things seriously.”

Alex LaSalvia contributed to the reporting of this article.


More Articles

Comments are closed.