Although UNM ranked No. 7 on Business Insider Magazine’s list of the most dangerous college campuses, a list based on FBI data, the University doesn’t appear on the top-25 list based on colleges’ Clery reports.
The magazine compiled its list using a combination of violent crime rankings and property crime rankings from the FBI’s Unified Crime Statistics. The magazine weighted violent crime four times as much as property crime to get its rankings, and used data from 2008 to 2011.
But UNM Director of Communications Dianne Anderson said the magazine’s report is problematic. She said the FBI statistics used in the report include crimes that occurred in the University area rather than only incidents that happened on campus and that the FBI has stated that its statistics can be misleading.
A statement on the FBI’s website warns that “these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions.”
Anderson said the magazine should have used the University’s Clery report, which only tracks crimes that take place on campus. “The article cites 30 aggravated assaults in 2011, while in the Clery report … had only 10 aggravated assaults that year,” Anderson said. “So we know … the data is flawed and misleading at best.”
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) is a federal statute that requires colleges and universities that receive federal financial aid to document and disclose information about on campus crime.
The reports submitted by each college and university are thus called Clery reports.
But Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center Frank LoMonte said the Clery reports may not be entirely trustworthy either.
“I think we can safely say from anecdotal experience that a lot of colleges do not take Clery Act reporting responsibilities seriously and are underreporting their totals,” he said. “It’s not at all uncommon to pick up an annual report from a large college with 20,000 students and see one sexual assault a year, which does not seem like it plausibly can be right.”
LoMonte spoke against the use of Clery report statistics in campus crime studies.
“Because colleges’ reporting seems to be spotty and inconsistent, it’s dangerous to make comparisons and draw conclusions from any set of statistics,” he said. “And it may even be counterproductive because it creates an incentive for colleges to underreport.”
According to the magazine, people objected to the FBI data because not every school took part in the survey and because “some colleges probably are more aggressive in reporting crimes on neighboring non-campus areas.” After many of the universities listed in the original report, including No. 17 New Mexico State University, complained that the Clery data was not used, Business Insider Magazine released a second list of dangerous campuses. The second report used universities’ Clery reports instead of the Unified Crime Data. The data was from 2007 through 2009, the most recent Clery data available.
Many of the colleges listed are ranked differently in the new report, including NMSU, which moved from 17th to 78th. UNM dropped from seventh to 30th.
But the magazine concluded that the similarity between the lists was strong and that “such similar results suggest that both lists are fairly accurate at identifying dangerous colleges.”
The magazine cited University of California Los Angeles and University of California Riverside as examples of these similarities. According to the magazine, both institutions objected to the original list, but were also in the top 20 of the the list that used the Clery reports.