While many were justly distracted by other headlines about North Carolina higher education this week — like the UNC Board of Governors moving against DEI — there were a number of headlines regarding a rise in crime on college campuses.

ABC 11 had a story entitled, “College students talk about campus safety amid string of violence across the state.” The piece interviewed students at three public universities in the state that were the scenes of violence this month.

There was an April 2 shooting at NC Central University in Durham, where a student was injured in an apparent conspiracy to commit armed robbery by at least three other students. Then there was a stabbing at Appalachian State University in Boone last week, with two students arrested and one injured. Then, this week, there was a gunshot fired inside Barbee Hall at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

These isolated events can be seen as part of a wider trend of crime on campuses increasing back to pre-pandemic levels, and higher. USA Today released a major report on campus crime this week, which showed the rebound effect as of the latest year of data, 2022.

Total rate of crime on campuses across the nation

The report’s tools allow you to search specific schools, and it was interesting to see what crimes some of the North Carolina campuses were dealing with specifically.

UNC Chapel Hill

At the state’s flagship school, UNC Chapel Hill, total crime increased sharply, even compared to before the pandemic, despite only a small increase in enrollment. The increase was mostly driven by an increase in aggravated assaults, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. Motor vehicle theft was also the biggest reason for crime on campuses rising nationally.

NC State University

At the other major public university in the Triangle, NC State, crime was also way up. Interestingly, many of the issues affecting other schools did not seem to impact NC State as much. But one odd and very troubling stat is the enormous spike in “fondling” offenses, the legal term covering unwelcome groping and what’s often called date rape.

In 2019, before the pandemic, there were only four cases of fondling, but in 2022 it was 27-times higher, at 108 cases. I asked the campus police chief what he believes the cause of this disparity was and will update the article if I hear back.

Student activism, even representing the main student government bodies, seems to show an acceptance of violence as well. At UNC Charlotte, the Student Government Association voted to divest from Israel despite the brutal attack by terrorist group Hamas, and the UNC Chapel Hill Student Bar Association chose Jamie Marsicano as their Crisp Leadership Award winner for 2024. Marsicano, if you’re not familiar, is being charged with domestic terrorism for his role in an Antifa-assault on police officers in Atlanta (because they dared build a police and fire-fighter training center).

His fellow students are protesting his removal from campus as somehow unjust, while the administration has been allowing him to complete classes remotely.

It’s too early to tell if this spike in crime will flatten out and remain at approximately pre-pandemic levels or if it will turn into a clear long-term trend. But those in governance roles don’t need to wait and see. They can start thinking of ways to attack the specific issues emerging now. Many are.

Some possible areas to explore are:

  • Adding more campus police officer positions
  • Increasing wages for campus police to make positions more attractive
  • Encouraging students to lock their cars and to not leave valuables in them overnight, considering auto-related theft makes up a large part of the trend
  • Discouraging culture of intoxication, considering rise in sexual assaults at parties and of overdose deaths
  • Zero tolerance for violence under the guise of activism

Campuses seem to be making progress on some of these already. But college should be a memorable time of fun and exploration. Crime should not have to be among a student’s main concerns.