A recent controversy over a Business Insider article, which ranked UCLA as the most dangerous college campus in the country, has called into question the accuracy of the business news website’s analysis of crime data.
The article, “The Most Dangerous Colleges in America,” used crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to compare violent and property crimes among college campuses with populations of 10,000 or more students and that chose to provide crime data.
Since the story was released last week, several schools on the list ““ including UCLA ““ have issued statements disputing the article’s claims.
One of the concerns raised is that the article uses statistics that do not match those reported by university police about on-campus crime, said UCPD spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein.
According to the Clery Report, an annual report about crime on public university campuses, there were an average of five aggravated assaults, three forcible rapes, three robberies, 12 car thefts and 118 burglaries annually between 2009 and 2011 at UCLA.
The Business Insider reported that UCLA has an average of 49 violent crime incidents per year from 2008 to 2011, with 12 forcible rapes and 17 aggravated assaults in the past year.
Greenstein said the Clery Report provides more accurate crime statistics than those compiled by the FBI because it separates on-campus and off-campus crimes, allowing for better comparison to other colleges.
Because its jurisdiction is not limited to the UCLA campus, UCPD can take reports from anyone, regardless of whether the crime itself took place on campus and affected students’ safety, Greenstein said. The difference between the reports lies in whether these outside crimes are calculated into statistics about crimes on campus.
Beyond the inclusion of off-campus crimes, UCLA officials have also questioned the use of FBI data for comparison because schools are not required to report their statistics to the FBI, said UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea.
Because the Business Insider article did not include data from all universities, Kris Lovekin, spokesman of UC Riverside, which was ranked 24th in the article, said university officials feel the rankings are not accurate.
The Business Insider article was amended this week to address some of the concerns that were raised about the statistics used in the article. It also now includes statements from UCLA and UC Riverside questioning their placement on the list. The authors of the article could not be reached for comment.
In an extended note, the writers recognized there are variations in how colleges choose to report off-campus crimes.
But the article also states that the similarities between FBI numbers and Clery Report numbers for on- and off-campus crimes are similar enough to make them interchangeable for the purposes of the story, according to the note.
For schools that are tracked by the FBI and by the campus and noncampus criteria of Clery, the results are fairly similar, the note said.
The FBI website cautions against using their statistics to rank school safety.
“Rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents,” the website states.
New Mexico State University ““ which was ranked as the second most dangerous university on the list ““ issued a statement which mentioned that the FBI cautions against using the data in this way, and affirmed the school’s dedication to reporting crimes to ensure student safety.
Despite the revision, UCLA is asking for the Business Insider article to be taken down because it create problems for the university, Ritea said. Business Insider has not yet responded to the university’s request, he said.