Crime report reveals differences among campus, degree locations

Credit: Justin Lin/ Credit: Justin Lin/

According to this year’s Annual Security and Fire Safety Report, which details campus crime and fire statistics over the past three years, Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus has faced more than 380 crimes since 2008, with 100 of them happening in 2010 alone.

In contrast, Carnegie Mellon’s campuses in Qatar and Los Angeles have had three crimes between the two of them over the past three years, while the campuses in Australia, Silicon Valley, and New York have had no crimes since 2008.

Members of the university community familiar with the report, such as the Carnegie Mellon Police or students and faculty who have spent time abroad, speculate that a lot of the differences in the amount of crime are related to the location, setting, and size of the different campuses. “The other campuses are essentially buildings or small venues, and don’t compare in size or population to the main campus, which explains the higher number of crimes, incidents, or activity [at the main campus],” said Thomas Ogden, chief of University Police.

The Pittsburgh campus, with almost 11,000 students and spanning 144 acres, is significantly larger than most of its satellites. The New York campus, on the other hand, has only 110 students and is contained within a single building. So even though the city of New York may have a higher crime rate than the city of Pittsburgh does, this is not reflected in the comparison.

However, some of Carnegie Mellon’s satellites are actually bigger than the Pittsburgh campus in both area and population. For example, the crime statistics for the Qatar campus include the entire 2,500-square-acre Education City campus, not just Carnegie Mellon’s 460,000-square-foot facility on the campus. The fact that the Qatar campus has only faced three crimes in the past three years cannot be explained by size alone.

Christian Reyes, a junior information systems and human-computer interaction double major, attributed this phenomenon to a combination of high security and a friendly atmosphere. “Education City is gated and has security at every entrance. An Education City ID is required for entry,” she said. “There are also lots of guards and cameras — a big contrast with the Pittsburgh campus.”

Within the gated community, Reyes also pointed out how Qatari students have a very high-trust culture: “I was very shocked when I was studying there to find students leaving their laptops, backpacks, even purses out in the open unattended while in class or eating lunch. It is very common for a study group to leave almost all their belongings, leave the campus entirely to get food, and come back an hour later,” she said. “Everyone knows everyone. The friendly atmosphere and the building combined make it hard for someone or something to go unnoticed.”

Proximity to other urban developments can also affect crime rates. Carnegie Mellon’s Silicon Valley campus, for instance, is located in a relatively suburban setting, whereas the main campus is in the middle of a large city. “Carnegie Mellon’s proximity to Forbes and Craig Street comes with the downsides,” remarked Todd Sedano, director of the campus’s software engineering program. “[The Silicon Valley campus’s] nearest Apple store is nine miles away.”

Although the Silicon Valley campus is also within a gated community like Qatar, Sedano believes that the small number of people around is a big factor.

“Someone could come onto the campus with the intent of misdoing and our statistics wouldn’t be as spotless,” he said. “I feel fortunate that this hasn’t happened. Every year we expect something untoward, but so far it hasn’t happened yet.”

Although Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus may not have some of the security advantages of its satellites, such as being a gated community or located in a suburban setting, Ogden pointed out the campus is still very safe. “Due to recent action by the police department, we have seen a decrease in crime and an increase in the number of arrests for crimes committed and a higher clearance rate,” Ogden said. “Our ultimate goal is always to decrease crime through education, awareness and enforcement.”