GW has reported one of the highest burglary totals of any college in the country for six straight years, according to a Hatchet analysis of recent Department of Education data.
The University’s totals fell between No. 9 and No. 22 in the U.S. for annual burglary counts between 2003 and 2009, the most recent aggregated data available.
GW logged 147 burglaries in its 2007 crime report, placing it at No. 9 out of more than 9,000 schools.
The University’s burglary total outpaces that of New York and Boston universities seven out of the nine years. GW also recorded the highest total out of all three schools during those years, with 147 burglaries in 2007.
The number of burglaries on campus has dropped every year since then, partly because of a more narrow definition of burglary adopted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Since 2009, officers have had to find evidence of trespassing before categorizing a crime as a burglary, or else the incident is considered a larceny.
Because of the more specific definition, schools across the nation have reported fewer burglaries, with sometimes dramatic declines.
Harvard University ranked in the top three every year – except in 2009, when the number of incidents classified as burglaries fell by 91 percent. The university reported 21 burglaries on campus that year, down from 230 the year before.
But GW totals remained high even under the new standards. It recorded more than 100 burglaries in both 2008 and 2009, shifting from the No. 12 to the No. 11 slot. Eighteen burglaries were reported to the University Police Department on the Foggy Bottom campus in 2012 – down from 39 the year before and 71 in 2010.
Universities with urban campuses are more likely to see higher numbers of robberies and burglaries, national campus security advocate S. Daniel Carter said.
But Carter, who directs an advocacy organization founded by the families of the victims of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, said university crime statistics don’t always reveal the full story of campus safety.
“The [annual] crime statistics are just the starting point,” Carter said. “You have to look deeper than the statistics to figure out whether one college is safer than another.”
The University has long wrestled with the problem of “tailgating,” or individuals following students to enter locked residence halls.
GW moved last year to install electronic locks in residence halls, which UPD Chief Kevin Hay has said helped prevent campus burglaries. UPD also increased the number of student monitors assigned to entrances, though Hay declined to say how many were hired or how many GW had employed before then.
Campus police also added 24-hour security to halls that previously only had guards to monitor entrances at night.
Abigail Boyer, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit advocacy group Clery Center for Security on Campus, said higher numbers could indicate a university has a strong “culture of reporting.”
Carter said parents, who often place safety higher on their list of concerns about a school than their children do, should consider not only the number of crimes on campus, but also crime rates.
Ohio State University, with its main campus in Columbus, ranked in the top four for burglary counts every year. It logged 212 burglaries in 2007, compared to GW’s 147. But Ohio State had more than 52,000 students enrolled that year, while GW had half that number.
Carter said many burglaries, unless an entire roomful of belongings or pricey electronics are taken, go unreported. Physical barriers to burglary, such as doors that lock automatically, can be key to reducing the absolute number of burglaries on a campus.