By Ian Shapira
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 2, 2007
More than 3 percent of 17 million crimes reported from 2000 through 2004 occurred at schools, colleges and universities, with knives being the most commonly used weapon, according to an FBI study released yesterday.
The Crime in Schools and Colleges study, which gathered data from about a third of the nation's law enforcement agencies, showed that the most commonly used weapon in more than 558,000 campus-related crimes over the five-year span was a knife -- not counting fists and feet, which accounted for most of the incidents.
Almost 11,000 incidents included a blade, and more than 3,400 included a firearm.
"I didn't realize how significant that discrepancy was" between knives and guns, said Dave Resch, the FBI's unit chief of behavior analysis. He said that finding surprised him the most. "These kids aren't building these knives in shop class. . . . These knives are coming from somewhere."
The bureau's first study of crime at schools offers a rough portrait of threats facing the country's education staff and students, from those in elementary school to those in college. About 96 percent of the crimes in which an arrest was made were assaults (simple or aggravated) or acts of intimidation.
The largest group arrested for crimes at school for which age was known was 13- to 15-year-olds, accounting for 38 percent of those arrested. More than 76 percent, or 313,556, of those arrested were males. Year after year, October was the month in which the most crimes occurred.
More than half of all campus crimes involved acquaintances. About 7.5 percent involved an attack by a stranger. There were reports of 3,700 such random assaults in 2004, up from 2,301 in 2000.
FBI officials cautioned against drawing conclusions about trends. Although the study shows the number and type of crimes that occurred annually over a five-year period, officials said that the number of law enforcement agencies that participated fluctuated from year to year. The agencies that gave data reflect about 22 percent of the country's population, officials said.
Still, Resch said that attacks by strangers -- such as the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech in April -- are alarming, in part because schools are growing more crowded each year, which can easily fuel tension.
"You get bumped in the hallway 20 years ago, and you kind of know the guy," Resch said. "Now, schools are so much bigger than they used to be."