Smaller might not always mean safer when it comes to college campuses, at least according to federal data the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters analyzed.
The Troubleshooters looked at crime statistics from more than 100 Connecticut colleges and universities, ranking those with at least 100 students enrolled, and found that the schools with students living on campus often had higher crime rates.
The federal data stems from nine categories: murder, robbery, arson, manslaughter, aggravated assaults and motor vehicle thefts, along with the two crimes most often reported, forcible sexual assaults and burglaries.
College sophomore Conor Kolchin said he was the victim of burglary in his own dorm room.
"Freshman year, I had a few things stolen from me," he said.
Smaller, private schools led the pack on a relative basis.
Mitchell College in New London topped the list, with one crime reported per every 38 students on average.
Trinity College in Hartford was next, with one crime reported per every 72 students, followed by Wesleyan University in Middletown, with one crime reported per every 86 students.
This surprised Mitchell College sophomore Sophie Spiller.
"I've only heard of a couple of crimes that have gone on campus here. It's a very small community, everyone's very close. I find it hard to believe, actually," she said.
Mitchell College believes it might have a higher number of reported crimes because school leaders "encourage our community to report any and all incidents as they arise."
Trinity admits it has had a hike in reports of forcible sex assaults, saying "a major reason for the increase in the number of reports is more frequent bystander, anonymous, and victim reporting that has resulted from our campus-wide efforts to raise awareness."
Sam O’Shea a freshman at Trinity, commented on overall crime and said, "It's tough. It's the area you're in. You just kind of have to do what you can. I don't know, I've never really felt in any danger.”
As far as Wesleyan, no students or administrators NBC Connecticut reached out to would comment on the crime data.
Here’s where some of Connecticut’s larger campuses fall:
While Yale University in New Haven had a total of 249 crimes reported over the four-year period, one crime was reported for every 195 students on average, putting Yale seventh on the list.
"I think that people are almost reckless, to the degree with which they’ll walk around by themselves, leave their doors unlocked," Yale sophomore Anna Russo told the Troubleshooters.
UConn Storrs had 248 crimes reported from 2010 to 2013 but, due to its size, it’s 15th in the rankings.
When it comes to burglaries – the most reported crime – a number of schools told us those are often crimes of opportunity, where a student has leaves a dorm room open or unlocked.
The colleges and universities that responded to the Troubleshooters sent us the following statements:
"The information provided in our Annual Security and Fire Report is complex and informative. Part of its purpose is to allow future students the ability to compare crime and safety statistics for several campuses, quickly and uniformly. However, as you have discovered, the numbers themselves do not always tell the whole story. As you mentioned, UConn has a very large student population and it would make sense that our reported numbers would be higher than a campus with a significantly less student/employee population. Same goes for a large city compared to a small town – a larger city would have higher incidents of reported crime compared to a small town. What is universal across most colleges and universities is that they are very safe communities to live and learn in, but are not immune to the crimes that are occurring in other geographic areas."
Deputy Chief of Police
UConn Police Department
"Mitchell College values the Clery Report for promoting transparency and accountability across higher-education campuses, but it’s important to remember that the statistics don’t always reflect the full picture. Mitchell College prides itself on being different – we maintain a high-touch campus culture with high-degrees of personal engagement between faculty, staff and students and encourage our community to report any and all incidents as they arise, all of which may result in our higher number of reported cases per capita. We take our responsibility to protect the members of our community very seriously, and have mechanisms set up to catch more of what happens on campus and then swiftly handle all situations, so that no incident goes overlooked."
Mitchell College Spokesperson
"Yale is a very safe campus thanks to our excellent police force and security systems, our good working relationship with the New Haven Police Department and other law enforcement authorities, and the cooperation of our students, faculty and staff in our safety efforts. Yale¹s campus and buildings are spread over a large area. If it is not certain whether the location of a reported crime requires it be listed under the Clery Act, Yale errs on the side of listing it so as to provide the fullest information the Yale community."
Yale University Spokesperson
"Our most recent annual security report released last fall in compliance with the Clery Act indicated a substantial increase during 2013 in the number of reported sex offenses on or near campus. We have looked closely at these numbers to determine what we can learn and where we can improve. At the same time, we believe firmly that a major reason for the increase in the number of reports is more frequent bystander, anonymous, and victim reporting that has resulted from our campus-wide efforts to raise awareness of and address the issue of sexual misconduct. Our broader goal at Trinity is to reduce and ultimately eliminate incidents of sexual misconduct, and all incidents of crime, so that every student, faculty member, and staff member feels − and is − safe."
Director of Media Relations and Community Outreach Trinity College