What do Duke’s 2021 on-campus crime statistics show?

Duke recently published its 2022 Annual Security Report, which includes newly released crime statistics for fiscal year 2021, which started in Oct. 2020.  

The Annual Security Report is mandated by the Jeanne Clery Act of 1990, which aims to increase transparency about campus crime and safety resources to students and employees. Each year, colleges and universities receiving federal funding must publish their crime statistics from the previous three fiscal years, along with information relating to crime policies and incidence reporting. 

The Chronicle conducted an in-depth data analysis using reports from 2017 to 2022 to understand how Duke’s crime statistics compare to peer institutions, finding that most of the University's crime rates fall in the middle of those of other schools, and how the recently released 2021 data correlates to existing crime trends on Duke’s campus.

Contextualizing the data

In order to contextualize Duke’s crime rates, The Chronicle compared the crime statistics at Duke from 2014 to 2021 to those of six other peer institutions: Columbia University, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame, Dartmouth College and Stanford University. 

These institutions were chosen because they have similar rankings to Duke, and they had the most easily accessible Annual Security Reports found online. The starting point of 2014 was chosen based on the fact that universities are only required to keep a seven-year retention rate of these reports, according to Peter Jeffries, Duke University Police Department’s Clery Compliance & records manager. 

The nine crimes chosen to compare were rape, fondling, burglary, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, robbery, stalking, domestic violence and dating violence. These crimes were chosen because the number of recorded offenses per year for each university were consistently greater than zero, which was not the case for the other crimes recorded like murder, manslaughter, incest and statutory rape.

The variation in undergraduate population at each school was accounted for by calculating the crime rate as the number of offenses per 1000 students. According to DUPD Chief John Dailey, undergraduate students report more incidents than graduate students.

In addition, Duke’s on-campus reported crimes include crime incidents occurring at health and medical facilities, which is not always the case for the six other peer institutions, according to Dailey.  

Duke's crime rates, excluding stalking, fall in the middle of those of its peer institutions — below those of Stanford and above those of the University of Pennsylvania, Notre Dame and Columbia. 

Duke’s relative rates for a sample of these crimes, specifically burglary, aggravated assault and domestic violence, can be seen in the following graphs. 


aggravated assault.png

domestic violence.png

However, Duke holds a disproportionately high rate of recorded stalking compared to those of other peer institutions. The Clery Act uses the 1994 Violence Against Women Act’s definition of stalking as  “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for the person’s safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”

Among the examined schools, Duke held the highest average rate of reported stalking offenses from 2014 to 2020 at 3.73 offenses per thousand students per year. Stanford held the second-highest rate at 2.73 offenses a year, and the University of Pennsylvania held the lowest rate at 0.26.


Effects of the pandemic on crime data

In general, there has been an overall decrease of reported crime in 2020 and 2021. These crimes include rape, robbery and dating violence, aggravated assault, domestic violence and motor vehicle theft. 

One reason behind the decline in reported crime over the past two years may be the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on campus life. 

According to Dailey, data for criminal activity may reflect a decrease due to more limited social interaction during the pandemic. 

April-Autumn Jenkins, former gender violence and intervention coordinator at the Women’s Center, believes that students were less likely to report crimes due to a fear of punishment for violating COVID-19 policies. 

“I think people were afraid to report and wanting to not get in trouble. This is especially true from a victim-survivor standpoint,” she said. 

A look at the data

The newly released 2021 fiscal year data was analyzed to understand how crime at Duke changed since 2014. After plotting the number of offenses for select campus crimes, four trends stuck out.


duke stalking.png

The 2021 data continued Duke’s already high rate of stalking offenses. There was an increase in offenses, from 29 reported offenses in 2020 to 38 in 2021, continuing the University’s statistically significant trend of rising stalking offenses. The number increased beginning in 2016, reached a peak in 2018 at 42 cases and has since not gone down to the previous levels held in years prior. 

Jenkins believes that the rise in cases may come from a growing awareness, education, and comfort to speak about these types of offenses on Duke’s campus. 

“Stalking has been happening, it’s just not being reported. So I feel like people are feeling more confident and comfortable coming forward. When folks know what stalking really is, they’re more apt to say, ‘Okay maybe this is happening, and I didn’t even know it, so now I am reporting it,’” she said. 


In 2021, there were a total of five reported rape offenses, the lowest amount seen over the past eight years. The 2021 data contributes to the overall larger trend of decreasing rape offenses over recent years.  


According to Dailey, this trend can be attributed to University policy surrounding rape and sexual assault. 

“While sexual assault is underreported, the university has emphasized prevention, reporting and response during this time,” he wrote in an email to The Chronicle. 

Another reason for the recent decline in rape offenses could be the growing trend toward holding social gatherings on-campus or within residential spaces during the pandemic. 

Jenkins said when she first started working at the Women’s Center, many of the rape cases she saw looked like “things happening at the Barn … away formals … the trends of partying on-campus, I think that has helped.”

Social gatherings in residential spaces or on-campus may be less prone to gender violence incidents because they take place in more familiar surroundings, according to Jenkins. 

Jenkins also partly attributes the decrease in offenses to greater student involvement in gender violence prevention and education. 

“I think a lot of the collaboration with student groups and student initiatives have really started holding people accountable,” she said. “If it’s a peer they are connecting with, they may take the message better.”


In 2021, there were zero reported robbery offenses, another record low over the past eight years. The number of offenses peaked in 2017 at five cases, but since then has been on the decline. 


duke robbery.png

According to Dailey, the decrease in robbery offenses may be due to targeted safety strategies implemented by the DUPD, such as placing patrols in areas to reduce risk from robberies.

Dating Violence 

From 2019 to 2021, there were zero reported cases of dating violence at Duke. This drop  provides a stark contrast to the average of around six cases per year from 2014 to 2018. 

duke dating offenses.png

While the nonexistent number of dating violence offenses in recent years may seem positive, the decline in cases could actually signify a problem. 

According to Jenkins, the lack of reported offenses signifies that individuals are not feeling comfortable enough to report a cycle of abuse occurring with their significant other. This may have also been exacerbated by the pandemic, which fostered conditions in which individuals were spending longer, more extended periods of time with their significant other, decreasing their likelihood to report an offense. 

“To have people feel comfortable enough to report that, it’s huge. In my mind, what that zero says is that there is more work that I have to do, a lot more work,” Jenkins said. 

Data visualizations created by Sana Pashankar.

Sana Pashankar profile
Sana Pashankar | Staff Reporter

Sana Pashankar is a Trinity senior and a staff reporter of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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