In a chilling shared government agency and federal law enforcement analysis released this spring, targeted college campus violence, from serious assaults to mass shootings, is on the rise. Campus Attacks: Targeted Violence Affecting Institutions of Higher Education, reports that the number of cases rose from 40 during the 1980s to 79 in the 1990s and 83 since 2000. The report is jointly authored by the FBI, Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education.

“For years, colleges and universities have worked to address this challenge — to create safe campuses where academic and personal growth can flourish,” according to the report. “In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, many universities were confronted with the troubling reality that one person can, in a few brief moments, devastate a college community through an act of targeted violence.”

In the 272 incidents of targeted violence studied for the report, 281 people were killed and 247 injured. Of those deaths, at least 190 were students and at least 72 were employees.

Targeted violence is defined as situations in which attackers select a victim beforehand or randomly choose victims because they fit some predetermined profile or relationship. It excludes violence that breaks out spontaneously, such as during an argument or fight.

The study found that:


   Factors relating to an intimate relationship were a motivating or triggering factor in a third of attacks and academic stress or failure was a factor in one out of 10 attacks.

   Sixty percent of those who engaged in targeted campus violence were current or former students at the school where the violence took place.

   Firearms were used in more than half the incidents and knives or weapons with a blade were used in more than 20 percent.

   More than 90 percent of those who committed such attacks were male.

   In nearly three-quarters of the incidents studied, the attacker appeared to have targeted one or more specifically named individuals. But sometimes it appeared that random people were targeted along with specific victims.


The report included 52 acts of violence in areas surrounding college campuses, saying that to exclude nearby locations would neglect the role of campus police and safety departments and campus threat assessment teams in securing the general area. This may prove a controversial position since the Clery Act reporting mandates exclude, for the most part, incident counting off campus and with especially urban-located campuses that closely hug private property where crime may be higher and tends to bleed through.

Following release of the report, U.S. Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, said that, in the three years since the tragedy at Virginia Tech, the annual number of incidences of violence on college campuses has increased. This is unfortunate given that there is a wealth of information available to help college campuses prevent such violence and effectively respond in the event that it does occur. The Center to Advance Monitor and Preserve University Security Safety Act or CAMPUS does just that. Identical bills under this title passed the House of Representatives unanimously in both the 110th and 111th Congresses. Unfortunately, the bill lingered in the Senate in the 110th Congress and did not pass and the current bill is on its way to incurring the same fate. “It is my hope that this new report will convince my Senate colleagues to quickly act on this legislation.”


H.R. 748, the CAMPUS Safety Act, will create a National Center for Campus Public Safety, which will be administered through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services program. The Center will train campus public safety agencies, encourage research to strengthen college safety and security, and serve as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of relevant campus public safety information.