• Crime at Florida Colleges and Universities
  • October 23, 2015 | Author: Marc Hardesty
  • Law Firm: Hardesty, Tyde, Green & Ashton, P.A. - Jacksonville Office
  • In general, crime on college campuses tends to be lower than the outside world, but it’s still a problem that causes legislators and university administrators to carefully consider what might be done. Since college campuses are perceived to be relatively safe, students can be lulled into a sense of false security.

    How Prevalent is Crime on Campuses Nationwide?

    Despite the fact that crime on university campuses does not happen in the same volume as outside campus walls, thousands of incidents take place in these locations every day. Some of the statistics about college crime include:
    • In the year 2001, there were 610 murders and 11,659 robberies reported on college campuses in the U.S.
    • Between 2005 and 2007, over 100 murders and 16,000 assaults (including 10,000 forcible sexual assaults) were reported throughout college campuses all over the country. This adds up to over nine sexual assaults per day.
    • According to FBI data, the most common crimes committed on campus are simple assault, larceny, destruction of property, drugs, and weapon law violations.
    • More than 80 percent of reported crimes on college campuses are property crimes
    If You See Something, Say Something...

    The biggest challenge with reported crime is that does only include what has been reported to campus or local authorities. Many other crimes occur that do not lead to official reports, so it’s unknown how serious the crime problem is both at Florida universities and around the country.

    Bear in mind that another issue with reporting is that campuses only have to report what actually occurs on their own campus. With so many schools being located in bigger cities and in areas that have higher crime rates overall, these campus statistics fail to show the rate of crime in the blocks surrounding a school’s location.

    Sexual Offenders Could Be Closer to Your Coed Than You Think

    Even though federal law mandates that a campus report when a registered sex offender is living on campus, that requirement stops at the border of the campus. This means that universities have zero responsibility to report when sex offenders are living close to the campus. Given that many students have interaction both inside the campus walls and in the local community close to the school, there is potential risk of interaction with registered sex offenders.

    Sadly, some students or parents might realize this too late if they did not dig into researching it sooner. According to research, for example, there were at least 93 paroled sex offenders within a two-mile radius of Jacksonville University in 2008.

    Some schools in Washington and other states have pushed for legislation that would ban registered sex offenders from the neighborhoods surrounding them. Those laws have been opposed, however, by those who believe that banning offenders from neighborhoods stops those individuals from being reintegrated into society.

    What Helps Decrease Crime on Campus?

    The extent to which enforcement matters to the school seems to have an impact on crime rates. It’s believed that better crime technology (like the use of surveillance video cameras, for example) has helped to nip crime in the bud.

    Students should also be mindful of the following tips to prevent crime on campus:
    • Report suspicious behavior to campus authorities as soon as you see it
    • Keep all property locked up and safe, including that inside cars and dorm rooms
    • Make use of campus safety phones when feeling uneasy
    • Always ensuring that a friend or family member knows where you are
    • Not posting class schedules or other “out of the dorm/apartment” for burglars or other potential criminals to see
    Sexual Assault on Campus

    Nationwide, sexual assault and rape are two crimes getting a lot of attention when it comes to college campuses, and with good reason. Research shows that 1 in 4 college women will become a victim of sexual assault during her college years. Every 24 hours a rape occurs on a U.S. college campus, which has brought the issue into the forefront of the national conversation about how to handle the crisis.

    Florida is no exception to the list of states grappling with sexual assault on campus, as recent issues from the University of Florida demonstrate. A new study from the school shows that one in five women at the school has suffered in a sexual assault. These numbers are generally in line with national reports, including a recent study showing that 23 percent of women across the country were sexually assaulted by someone while in school.

    Many of these incidents are not reported, so all numbers are an estimate, anyways. A bigger issue with sexual assault and rape on campuses in Florida is that data show lack of convictions following allegations of rape. Between 2012 and 2013, there were 55 rapes reported to Florida college campuses, but arrests were only made in five of those situations. With lack of follow-up or enforcement, other victims may be deterred from reporting their cases.

    Where Does Florida Factor in on America’s Safest Schools?

    A ranking completed by Niche.com shows where America’s safest schools are located. The first Florida school to make the list at ranking #24 is the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville. The only other Florida schools to make the cut were Carlos Albizu University in Miami and Clearwater Christian College.

    Will Concealed Carry Make a Difference?

    Professors at Florida Gulf Coast University are the most recent group to come out in opposition to concealed weapons in the workplace. With crime a concern at universities, some advocates for concealed carry have suggested that employees having access to weapons could help to stop some crimes from getting worse. Members of the FGCU faculty, however, believe that allowing concealed carry would compromise the trust between faculty and students. On October 2nd, those faculty members voted in favor of resolutions opposing House Bill 4001 and Senate Bill 68. Both of these laws would allow for college campus concealed carry.

    How Does a Criminal Charge Impact a College Student?

    Aside from needing to hire a criminal defense lawyer and missing time in class due to attending required hearings and court dates, criminal charges can continue to haunt a student for years to come. Many students underestimate the lifelong impact of a serious conviction, and coupled with lack of understanding about the law, could lead a student to skip criminal defense or hire an inexperienced lawyer.

    Students might face individual penalties at the school where the alleged crime occurred, but the implications of a conviction may last long after those consequences have been served. A criminal record, even one that lists minor crimes, can keep a student from being hired after graduating from college as well. Many employers are simply not willing to hire someone with a criminal background, even if that individual has paid his or her dues and has had no additional criminal activity.

    Students should be aware of university policies about crimes and how it will impact their educational efforts. Schools do have some discretion over what happens to the student after he or she has served the legal consequences. Students also should not fall into the trap of thinking that a crime isn’t serious if it was initially investigated by campus police or security.

    On-campus officers are responsible for reporting crimes and working with law enforcement to enforce campus rules as well as local, state, and federal laws. Students should steer clear of the perception that a university campus is like a safety blanket protecting them from serious outcomes. If a crime is alleged, the student should retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.