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BYU No. 1 in safety for big U.S. campuses

Other 4-year schools in Utah also called safe

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Brigham Young University is the safest campus in the nation for schools of its size, according to data released this week by a national research firm.

The Provo-based school reported 19 crimes in 2002, compared with the 124.45 average crimes reported by other schools with more than 20,000 students.

"It's a high class of people. What can I say? High class of people," said Lewis Lindsey Jr., president of Institutional Research and Evaluation Inc., based in Georgia. "It's really saying something for the character of a person who goes (to BYU)."

BYU is not alone with having a low crime rate. In fact, all Utah four-year universities are among the nation's safest colleges and universities, the research group found.

BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins attributes the low crime on campus to the LDS Church-owned school's honor code. She said students from all over the world choose to come to BYU with full knowledge of its honor system.

"They choose to come to an environment where honesty is a very important factor in being here," Jenkins said.

Every student who wants to attend BYU must sign an honor code before admittance. The code is basically a list of rules students are asked to follow, including abstaining from premarital sex and consumption of alcohol and tobacco.

Students must meet with a religious leader and recommit to the honor code's guidelines before registering for classes every year while attending school.

Although crime is relatively low, isolated incidents on the Provo campus don't go unnoticed. Recently, the Honor Code Office at BYU came under intense public scrutiny after dismissing one football player permanently and suspending three others for a year for their roles in a January party that included sex and alcohol.

"When something does occur on campus, it does tend to get noticed," Jenkins said. "That's just because we have an honor code and people know we expect differently from our students. We do have a high standard here."

Pick any four-year university in Utah, and you'll feel safe on campus, said Lindsey, of Institutional Research and Evaluation Inc.

Lindsey said low crime rates at Utah's four-year universities are a reflection of the overall attitude toward keeping crime rates low by each institution. BYU, the University of Utah, Utah State University and Weber State University all employ their own police force on campus to handle crime.

"As it turned out, every one of Utah's four-year schools were, basically, we would consider a safe environment," Lindsey said.

The U. reported 68 crimes in 2002, compared to the national average of 66.03 at schools of similar size — 15,000 to 20,000 students. "It's right at the national average, which, for a big city, is not bad at all," Lindsey said.

University of Utah spokesman Fred Esplin said downtown crime spills over onto campus grounds, which increases crime statistics.

"We're in a metropolitan area," Esplin said. "A lot of the crime that occurs here are people who come up here to commit the crime."

Crime on campuses nationwide jumped 1.6 percent from 2001 to 2002, Lindsey said. Burglary is the highest-reported crime, with 23,136 reported incidents. Motor vehicle theft ranked second with 4,511.

Institutional Research and Evaluation Inc., released the figures to help parents feel more secure when shipping their children off to college, Lindsey said.

E-mail: ldethman@desnews.com