National Center for Campus Public Safety

The Roles and Strategies of Campus Safety Teams for Preventing Violence in College and University Campus Communities

Download the forum report.
College campuses have generally become safer places over the last 15 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), but for some types of violent crimes, the numbers have risen in recent years. Between 2001 and 2015, the overall number of reported crimes on college and university campuses fell by 34 percent, but in 2014 and 2015 — the most recent data in the NCES report — crime reports rose 2 percent from 26,900 to 27,500. For some types of crime, the rise has been sharper. The number of reported forcible sex offenses on college campuses increased by 18 percent between 2014 and 2015, for example, and the number of reported murders was higher in 2015 than in 2001. Some of the rise may be due to changes in reporting requirements and other factors. The actual amount of violence occurring on college and university campuses may be much higher, however. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2016 only 42 percent of all violent crimes were reported to police.

In campus communities, a multitude of circumstances can raise the threat of violence. Some potential threats are common; others, such as protests and demonstrations, mental health crises, domestic or workplace disputes, or even crowded venues, may be more complex in campus communities. This prompted the following question:

 “How can campus safety teams prevent violence in university and college communities?”

To address this question, a group of campus safety leaders, with support from the National Center for Campus Public Safety, gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina in July 2018 to discuss the challenges campus safety departments face and uncover promising practices for addressing them. Key questions during the event, which occurred during the Historically Black Colleges and Universities – Law Enforcement Executives and Administrators 19th annual training conference, included:

  • What can campus safety departments do to prevent violence among their students, faculty, and staff?
  • How can campus safety departments balance their institution’s safety needs with the goals and needs of the surrounding communities?
  • Are there ways campus safety teams can optimize their violence prevention resources?

The questions sparked a critical discussion, and participants noted several factors that make violence prevention efforts at institutions of higher education unique. This report contains a number of promising strategic practices identified by participants that campus safety teams can implement to prevent violence in their campus communities.

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