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University of South Florida ranked lowest in state for safe college campuses, study finds

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A study ranked the University of South Florida as the most unsafe campus in the state and near the bottom of the list in the country as well.

Alarms.org ranked the Safest Colleges in America, with the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus landing at No. 382 overall.

The Tampa campus ranking was also the worst of the 14 Florida colleges included in the study.

“It was surprising to hear the statistic, but I feel relatively safe,” student Shae Driscoll told WFLA News Channel 8. “It’s the surrounding area I think that contributes to the statistic.”

But Federal Bureau of Investigations crime statistics show USF did not have the highest number of reported violent crimes among several universities in 2017.

The Alarms.org study compared 490 colleges looking at crime rate using law enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation reports, with a distinction between violent and non-violent crime, and “police adequacy,” according to the methodology. Agencies self-report crimes statistics to the FBI.

However, Alarm.org noted that variable such as campus size, location and culture made the ranking challenging.

“While these are valid concerns (and we certainly advise students and their parents to visit the colleges to see and feel the campuses for themselves), we do believe that we have been able to rank fairly and objectively,” according to Alarms.org.

USF Tampa Police Department officials said in a news release Wednesday they question the validity of the study, saying it takes into account crime in areas near the campus, but outside of the USF Police jurisdiction.

The FBI uniform crime report for the USF Tampa campus for 2017 showed an enrollment of 42,861 students with 14 incidents of violent crime and 267 reports of property crime.

Campus police said statistics reported to FDLE show a decrease in crime from 2017 to 2018, with total index crimes dropping from 281 to 243.

“Specifically, violent crimes dropped from 14 in 2017 to seven in 2018,” according to campus police.

The complete 2018 FDLE report is not yet available, but statistics from the first half of the year are published online.

The university also publishes an annual security and fire safety report, which can be found here, and lists reported crimes. It includes the USF Tampa Police Department, campus security authorities and other agencies.

For 2017, the security and fire safety report shows on campus there were eight reports of rape, one report of other sex offenses, three reports of domestic violence, 13 reports of dating violence, four reports of stalking, one robbery, 10 assaults, 17 burglaries, one arson report and 20 motor vehicle thefts. In on-campus student housing facilities, there were seven reported rapes, two reports of domestic violence, six reports of dating violence, one reported aggravated assault and three burglaries.

For the first half of 2018, the University of South Florida Police Department reported three rapes, 10 burglaries, 109 larceny incidents and one vehicle theft to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s uniform crime report.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is a top priority for the University of South Florida,” USF Police Chief Chris Daniel said. “Our police department is dedicated to providing a safe environment, and our officers will continue to be vigilant and visible throughout campus.”

According to the University of South Florida system facts site, there were 31,389 undergraduate students enrolled at the Tampa campus, along with 10,005 graduate students, in the fall of 2018.

USF’s St. Petersburg campus, however, ranked higher in Alarm.org study at No. 118. The Sarasota-Manatee campus was not included.

The St. Petersburg campus has fewer students, with an undergraduate enrollment for the fall of 2018 at 4,102 students.

In the 2017 FBI uniform crime report, USF St. Petersburg campus police reported zero incidents of violent crime and 28 incidents of property crime.

USF Police Department-St. Pete campus reported just one burglary, one vehicle theft, and nine larceny incidents in the first half of 2018, according to the FDLE uniform crime report. In all of 2017, the UCR numbers for the department showed one reported burglary and 27 larceny reports.

Here’s how the Florida colleges included in the Alarm.org study ranked on the list of safest college campuses in the U.S.:

  • 20 - Florida SouthWestern State College, Fort Myers
  • 50 - Santa Fe College, Gainesville
  • 118 - University of South Florida, St. Petersburg
  • 130 - University of West Florida, Pensacola
  • 201 - Florida A&M University, Tallahassee
  • 207 - University of North Florida, Jacksonville
  • 258- University of Central Florida, Orlando
  • 265 - Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee
  • 271 - University of Florida, Gainesville
  • 313 - Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers
  • 316 - Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton
  • 338 - Pensacola State College, Pensacola
  • 342 - Florida International University, Miami
  • 382 - University of South Florida, Tampa

Florida State University and the University of Miami were not included in the study. According to the study’s methodology, schools that did not submit crime reports to the FBI, had enrollments of under 1,000 students or where “significant amount of data” was not available were not included.

The college campus in the FBI UCR report with the most reported violent crimes (25) in 2017 was Florida State University in Tallahassee, which was not included in the Alarms.org study. The second most reported violent crimes was University of Central Florida with 19. USF Tampa campus, with 14, would fall after UCF.

The University of Miami did not appear in the 2017 FBI UCR.

According to the FDLE uniform crime report for 2017, Florida State University Police Department handled 13 reported rapes, 8 robberies, four aggravated assaults 32 burglaries and 24 vehicle thefts.

Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn., was determined by the Alarm.org study to be the safest campus in the country, while the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was ranked the least safe.

The University of Michigan, Florida State University and University of South Florida Tampa all have a total enrollment of over 40,000 students, according to the Department of Education. Florida SouthWestern State College, the highest ranking Florida campus in the study, has just over 15,700 enrolled students.

According to 2017 DOE Campus Safety and Security statistics, University of Michigan saw 25 reported rapes (just one more than FSU) but fewer vehicle thefts than USF Tampa.

The full list of all 490 universities ranked in the study can be found here.

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