Ranking paints distorted picture of NMSU crime

We never give a second thought to the notion that the New Mexico State University campus may not be safe.

And so, when The Business Insider website recently ran a story claiming NMSU was the second-most dangerous college campus in America, it simply didn't ring true with the students, faculty and community members who know the university best.

"To call NMSU dangerous is a mischaracterization of the data," the university said in a press release.

The report on NMSU claimed that, "Property crimes spiked to 461 incidents in 2011, including 69 burglaries, 385 larcenies, seven motor vehicle thefts, and one arson."

But in the category of violent crimes — those that people would consider to be most dangerous — the numbers are falling.

There were three forcible rapes reported in 2010, none in 2011. Robberies dropped from two to one, and there were no murders or non-negligent manslaughter reported.

The Business Insider explained it compiled its rankings by averaging FBI crime data per capita from 2008 to 2011. Schools were ranked on a combination of violent crimes and property crimes.

But, as NMSU Police Chief Stephen Lopez notes, the FBI specifically warns about using the data as a means to compile safety rankings. And, the Business Insider report itself includes the disclaimer that, "There are many complications in ranking schools. In short, schools that report crimes in neighboring noncampus areas have elevated numbers. Since these noncampus areas are judged by the school to be relevant to students, however, we have chosen to use a list that includes this data when available."

Lopez said minor property crimes, such as defacing a stop sign, were weighted too heavily in the rankings.

In his autobiography, Mark Twain observed, "there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

While the statistics cited in the report may be accurate, the conclusions reached from those statistics are not.

Certainly, campus safety is a top priority for any university, and a primary consideration for parents and students in choosing which college or university they will attend. NMSU, which was among the first colleges in the nation to participate in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports program, has always taken that responsibility seriously.

We understand NMSU faces the same challenges other universities do when it comes to public safety. But we don't believe this report presents an accurate picture of how dangerous the university is. And, we don't believe for a minute that NMSU is the second-most dangerous campus in America.

— Las Cruces Sun-News

Speak Your Mind