Expert Commentary

School crime control and prevention

2009 Duke University and the University of Maryland study looking at school characteristics that influence the level of crime.

A report by the National Center for Education Statistics finds that, in 2007, about 1.5 million students between the ages of 12 to 18 were victims of nonfatal crimes at school. About 85% of public schools recorded at least one violent crime, theft or other crime during the 2007-2008 school year.

The prevalence of school crime imposes substantial monetary and non-monetary costs on students and teachers alike.  A 2009 paper by researchers from Duke University and the University of Maryland, “School Crime Control and Prevention,” reviews past studies that considered the various school characteristics that have influenced the level of crime in schools.

The paper’s key findings include:

  • The higher the number of students who are actively delinquent outside school, the greater the school crime rate.
  • Positive school norms and bonds with adults in the school and communal social organizations can reduce problem behaviors.
  • Strong and effective discipline management as well as involving students in the establishment of mechanisms for reducing misbehavior can be effective.
  • Compared with larger schools, smaller schools are not found to be more effective in limiting problem behaviors.

The authors conclude by providing some recommendations on future research directions.  These include improving data quality, identifying additional variables to be included in studies and verifying the causal link between crime and school climate.

New York Times photo by Scott Olson. Tags: crime, poverty, African-American.

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