College Student Victims and Reporting Crime to the Police: The Influence of Collective Efficacy

By Hart, Timothy C.; Colavito, Violet | Western Criminology Review, November 2011 | Go to article overview

College Student Victims and Reporting Crime to the Police: The Influence of Collective Efficacy


Hart, Timothy C., Colavito, Violet, Western Criminology Review


Abstract: Campus crime and college student victimization are important social issues. Despite the existing research in this area, little is known about whether factors that influence police notification among college students are similar to those observed among the general population. Using data from a survey of 160 college students enrolled at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the current study assesses the influence of collective efficacy on crime reporting among college student victims, while controlling for relevant victim-, offender-, and incident-level characteristics of a crime. Results from multivariate regression analysis show that only one dimension of collective efficacy (i.e., social control) significantly influences police notification behavior among this college student sample. With the exception of crime severity, other factors that are commonly associated with crime reporting decisions among the general public are not correlated with these students' willingness to report crime to police. Findings are discussed in terms of both campus policies concerning crime reporting as well as theoretical implications.

Keywords: campus crime, college student victimization, and social cohesion.

INTRODUCTION

Recently, according to data obtained from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), in each year between 1995 and 2004, college students aged 18-24 experienced an average of more than 463,000 incidents of violence, including more than 30,000 rapes or sexual assaults, 42,000 robberies, 106,000 aggravated assaults, and 284,000 simple assaults (Hart 2007). However, data from the U.S. Department of Education (2011) show that between 2005 and 2009, the number of Part I crimes1 that occurred on college campuses fell nearly 21%. Although these figures reflect only those crimes known to police, analysis of NCVS data, which include both crimes reported as well as those not reported to police, confirms the recent decline in violent victimization among college students (Baum and Klaus 2005; Hart 2003, 2007). Despite the downward trend observed in recent years, campus crime and college student victimization remains a top concern for many, including students, parents, faculty, staff, administrators, and those living in and around campus communities.

Administrative policies and campus security practices are designed to keep students safe by addressing many of the concerns related to campus crime. For example, in response to high-profile incidents of fatal attacks involving college students, like the 2007 events at Virginia Tech, schools have increased the number and responsibilities of campus police, enhanced rapid response communication networks to alert students and college staff at the onset of violent incidents, provided greater access to clinical records of students with psychological or behavioral problems, and proposed establishing special firearm training so that armed faculty and staff would be able to assist law enforcement at critical times (Rasmussen and Johnson 2008). While college students are far more likely to experience a property crime than a murder or some other form of campus violence (Bromley 1992; Fisher, Sloan, Cullen, and Lu 1998; Fisher and Wilkes 2003; Fox and Hellman 1985; Henson and Stone 1999; Siegel and Raymond 1992; Sloan 1992, 1994; Volkwein, Szelest, and Lizotte 1995), when campus crime threatens the overall safety and security of students it often elicits some form of legislative or administrative response. Since only about a third of all violence experienced by college students is reported to police (Baum and Klaus 2005; Hart 2003, 2007), developing a fully informed response to this problem can be a formidable task.

Over the past several decades, the campus crime literature has grown substantially, addressing many aspects of this important social issue. Studies range from investigations aimed at improving our understanding of the nature and extent of campus crime and college student victimization (Baum and Klaus 2005; Fisher et al.

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