Common Crimes Committed By College Students

Everyone knows that their youngest child — the most adorably angelic new college attendee ever — will likely be involved in crimes like underage drinking or drug use in between periods of diligent study. These activities are mostly viewed as part of the college experience by authorities, parents, and attendees alike, but can be quite dangerous.

Colleges are prepared to step in when necessary, and the organizations certainly do whatever possible to keep our youngest generation safe while away from home (even though, scarily, they are technically adults).

But a number of more major or minor reported crimes also run rampant on college campuses. These are the most common ones.

Property Crime. This constitutes the vast majority of all reported crimes committed on campuses around the country. They include vandalism, theft, and arson. The estimated cost of campus-related property crimes is upwards of $15.3 billion each year. 50,000 cases are reported annually, which amounts to about one property crime every ten minutes.

And property crime is a problem no matter which college you attend. Even Ivy League schools tend to rank among their own state’s unsafest college. The unsafest school in the U.S. wherein property crime is concerned is the University of California, San Francisco with a whopping 134.5 crimes for every 1,000 students enrolled.

Forcible Sexual Offense. According to the Clery Act, there were only seven forcible sexual offenses committed in 2014. Because the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported, this statistic should terrify every parent. Crimes that fall into this category include rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and fondling. (A separate “non-forcible” category includes incest and statutory rape).

But anyone who has ever attended a college or university knows that many more forcible sexual offenses occur at just one campus in just one month. Most victims don’t step forward, and those who do can expect to endure a traumatizing process during which the authorities will gather evidence and conduct an investigation. About 5 of every 1000 individuals accused of a sexual assault will be charged. Only 4.5 out of 5 will spend time in jail.

This is an especially important category to keep in mind because sexual experimentation and alcohol often go hand in hand at college — and those are the ingredients of a dangerous and often illegal situation.

Motor Vehicle Theft. Although technically a property crime, we gave it a separate category because the crime is usually associated with much greater penalties.

Murder or Negligent Manslaughter. There were 43 in 2014.

Disorderly Conduct. This is a common crime for which college students will often be charged in conjunction with other unlawful activity such as underage drinking. It’s not that difficult for authorities to establish that a college student created a disturbance — because that often seems to be the primary goal for these kids.

More often, a student will be charged with a greater crime like assault and battery or underage drinking, and then be allowed to cut a plea deal with the prosecution to the lesser offense. That means the court gets a win and little Johnny doesn’t spend much, if any, time in jail. More importantly, it means there won’t be a life-changing felony on record for any immature actions taken while in college.

Underage Drinking. Depending on where a student resides, this crime can result in mandatory rehabilitation programs, vehicle impoundment, or a license suspension — even for a first offense, and even if there is no suspicion of drinking and driving. These penalties can affect a student’s scholarship or internships. It’s important to know campus-specific policies and state-specific penalties for getting caught. And getting caught is only a matter of time for the typical college student.

Marijuana Possession. Simple drug use is another common crime committed by college students. Even though arguably safer than alcohol use, the penalties are usually much greater — even amidst widespread decriminalization and the adoption of recreation use. For example, California laws are actually stiffer for minors and underage users now than they were before recreational marijuana was legalized. Like underage drinking, the consequences can affect scholarships or internships.

Hazing. Many college students don’t realize that hazing is often classified as criminal activity by local and state jurisdictions. But that shouldn’t be a big surprise since the practice often includes treatment comparable to abuse or harassment. These “pranks” might include forcing others to eat raw or disgusting food, physical violence, or even sexual favors. They often go unreported as the entire point of the hazing ritual is guaranteeing a subject’s obedience to a fraternity or sorority.