Fresno State in top 20 of 'dangerous colleges' list

The Fresno BeeNovember 27, 2012 

A business news website ranks Fresno State as one of the most dangerous colleges in America -- but university officials and the student body president say that isn't so.

Business Insider published a report last week listing the top "25 Most Dangerous Colleges in America." Fresno State ranks No. 19 -- with slightly better crime statistics than Rutgers University's Newark, N.J., campus (ranked No. 18), but worse than the University of California at Riverside, which came in No. 24. The University of California at Los Angeles tops the list.

The report averaged per capita FBI crime data from 2008 to 2011 for schools with more than 10,000 students. The schools were then ranked based on a combination of violent and property crimes.

Fresno State, the report said, had an average of 12 violent crimes a year. That category includes murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The school also had an average of 413 property crimes a year, which include burglary, larceny, car theft and arson.

Last year was "particularly bad," with 17 violent crimes and 501 property crimes, the report said.

But Fresno State officials don't agree. The report, school officials said Tuesday, includes crimes committed off campus. Fresno State police have jurisdiction in a one-mile area around the school that it patrols along with Fresno police, campus spokeswoman Shirley Armbruster said.

That area includes the troubled El Dorado Park -- sometimes called "Sin City" -- a poor neighborhood just west of campus known for its high crime rate.

Including those outlying areas gives an inaccurate picture of crime at Fresno State, a university statement said.

The report by Business Insider acknowledged that statistics for some colleges are elevated because they include crimes in neighborhoods surrounding the campuses. The report added: "Since these noncampus areas are judged by the school to be relevant to students, however, we have chosen to use a list that includes this data when available."

Fresno State on Tuesday provided an annual safety and security report that showed no murders, 19 assaults and six sexual offenses on campus, in student housing or immediately around campus between 2009 and 2011.

The bulk of the crime was related to burglaries or vehicle thefts on campus, which in 2011 numbered 29 burglaries and 19 vehicle thefts.

"The conclusion by Business Insider that Fresno State is dangerous is simply inflammatory and unfounded," a statement from the university said.

On campus Tuesday night, students and faculty said they were surprised by the ranking. Several attributed most of the crime to off-campus people committing crimes on campus or incidents occurring in surrounding neighborhoods.

"It reflects more on the area we're located, not directly on the campus," said Janette Gallardo, a 23-year-old senior double majoring in history and communication disorders.

But even with crime occurring mainly off-campus, students said they still feel the effects at school.

"Certainly some of the surrounding areas have a lot of the same demographics that you'll find in the worst parts of town, right around the campus," said Brad Redelfs, a graduate student studying rehabilitation counseling. "And I know that blends right into the campus sometimes."

"Crime is very real here," echoed 31-year-old credential student Toini Hiipakka.

Students and faculty both said bike thefts are especially common on campus -- some saying they, too, have lost a bike to thieves.

Fresno State Associated Students President Arthur Montejano said he has never felt unsafe on campus, but he knows some people who have been crime victims. They have expressed their concerns, and the student group is working with the school to address them, he said.

The student association plans a Crime Prevention Week in February to educate students about safety and to provide self defense classes.

Students have resources to help them be safe on campus, Montejano said.

The campus offers police escorts at night, as well as help towers with buttons that alert police to a problem and a new smartphone app.

The app has a GPS locator and an emergency button that when pushed alerts the police that there is a problem, Montejano said.

"I think that the report represents an inaccurate picture because the statistics can be skewed," Montejano said. "At the same time, certainly there is crime on and around campus that students need to be aware of."

Charles Ettner, a 63-year-old anthropology and linguistics professor who has taught for 15 years at Fresno State, said he thinks most students are aware of the safety resources available to them on campus.

"I think they have done a lot to try and make things safe with various alarm stations and escorts available," Ettner said.

He said when he wraps up class, he makes sure his students, especially the women, get to their cars safely or waits with them for their rides to arrive.

"I think a lot of us (faculty) do that. We pay attention to our students."

'Most Dangerous Colleges'

Business Insider (www.businessinsider.com), an online business news website, ranked the country's college campuses based on most crimes per capita on -- and in some cases around -- college campuses with at least 10,000 students. The rankings were based on FBI crime statistics for violent and property crimes from 2008 through 2011.

1. University of California at Los Angeles

2. New Mexico State University

3. University of California at Berkeley

4. Duke University

5. Florida A&M University

6. Vanderbilt University

7. San Diego State University

8. University of New Mexico

9. University of South Alabama

10. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge

11. Georgia Institute of Technology

12. Ball State University

13. Indiana State University

14. University of Cincinnati

15. Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

16. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

17. Northern Arizona University

18. Rutgers University, Newark

19. California State University, Fresno

20. Western Illinois University

21. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

22. State University of New York College, Buffalo

23. Arkansas State University, Jonesboro

24. University of California at Riverside

25. Florida State University, Tallahassee

Source: Business Insider

The reporters can be reached at blee@fresnobee.com, ljones@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6330.

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