The University Record, September 14, 1992

U-M surprised by crime comparison data in new FBI report

By Joseph H. Owsley
News and Information Services

University officials were surprised last week to find the U-M and Michigan State University sharing top billing in two crime categories in the newest FBI report listing eight kinds of criminal offenses reported in public universities across the United States.

The book-length report contains 1991 crime data from towns and cities as well as campuses (excluding private institutions). In it, MSU comes in first in the nation among campuses for violent crimes —murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault—with a total of 62 .

U-M was second in the violent crimes category with 57, and the U-M was highest among the nation’s public campuses in property crimes at 2,392, (burglary, larceny-theft, vehicle theft and arson). The great majority—2,134—of the U-M’s reported property crimes were thefts.

The U-M’s 1991 violent crime total included: zero murders, 9 rapes, 17 robberies and 31 aggravated assaults.

The data are similar to the totals of previous years, according to Leo J. Heatley, director of public safety and security.

“I think we are as safe as any large college or university, if not safer, but personal safety remains our top priority, and we are acting to increase the visibility of our uniformed officers,” Heatley says. He adds that a very recent comparison of crime totals for the January–August period of 1991 and 1992 shows a drop in crimes on the Ann Arbor campus.

Because the University officially launched its own police department on Jan. 1, 1991, this is the first time the U-M police report has been matched up against other campuses in the FBI statistics. MSU, like the U-M, files its crime report by computer every 24 hours to the Michigan State Police.

This may be one cause of the “high-crime” perception problem with the two Michigan universities, according to Heatley. Most all other university police units take up to a month to file data. “I have no way of determining how all these different campuses arrive at their figures,” Heatley says. “I know we turn ours in daily, as reported to us by members of our campus community. We don’t edit the data.”

Surprise and skepticism arise when

U-M crime data are matched with that reported by other large institutions, some of which are located in major metropolitan areas and have very large campus police forces—much larger than the U-M’s with 26 command and police officers.

The campus force of the University of California, Berkeley, reported a total of 41 violent crimes for 1991: 1 murder, 2 rapes, 13 robberies and 25 aggravated assaults.

The city of Berkeley, population 104,863, for the same time period reported 14 murders, 40 rapes, 663 robberies, and 834 aggravated assaults, a violent crime total of 1,551. The city had 11,717 property crimes, including 2,663 burglaries.

The city of Ann Arbor, population 110,449, for 1991 reported 2 murders, 50 rapes, 148 robberies and 413 aggravated assaults, totaling 613 violent crimes. Ann Arbor had 6,429 property crimes, including 1,251 burglaries.

Totals of 1991 reported crimes for other campuses with enrollments similar to the U-M:

U of Wisconsin, Madison—18 violent crimes: 5 rapes, 6 robberies, 7 aggravated assaults.

Illinois, Urbana—16 violent: 6 robberies, 10 assaults

Indiana, Bloomington—17 violent: 7 rapes, 3 robberies, 7 assaults.

Ohio State—49 violent: 3 rapes, 15 robberies, 31 assaults.

Penn State, Univ. Park—6 violent: 2 rapes, 3 robberies, 1 assault.

Also complicating comparisons between campuses, even those with similar numbers of students, Heatley notes, is the actual 24-hour campus population, such as in dorms, and whether there is a large research staff and a medical center. This is the case in Ann Arbor where, counting the huge medical center, the full-campus faculty and staff population of 35,325 almost matches the student population of 36,228.

Added to this are the more than 10,000 clinic patients and visitors who daily go to the Medical Center. The Ann Arbor campus work-day population then is more than 80,000, all of whom are served by the University police and public safety officers.

Whatever the perception, U-M police will continue to be very proactive in collecting crime data, Heatley says. “We want people to tell us about crime. This message has been delivered repeatedly at meetings with faculty, student and staff groups around campus for the past 18 months. The University community has responded with a steady flow of crime reports, each of which is taken at face value and entered into the campus police computer. Unless some are a clear hoax, they end up in the report to the FBI.

“We cannot do anything about crime unless we know about it.” Heatley said. “We want to build our database. When we have enough information about when, where, how and why a crime was committed, we can begin to predict crime. If we can predict crime, we can prevent crime.”