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School Crime Costs Victims More Than $600 Million Every Year, Report Finds

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new report from researchers at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, has found that school crime directly costs victims more than $600 million per year, or more than $12 billion over the past 20 years, in expenses ranging from medical care to lost work time and stolen property. The report is the first assessment of financial costs and consequences associated with school crime.

“These findings make a convincing case for investing in school safety,” said Michael Planty, PhD, director of RTI’s Center for Community Safety and Crime Prevention and lead author of the report. “Many incidents at schools that some people would consider relatively minor — such as assaults and theft — still come with a significant cost to the victims. Schools need proven, research-based solutions to address crime in a cost-effective manner.”

Planty and fellow RTI researchers Lynn Langton, PhD, and Joshua Hendrix, PhD, examined tangible harms to victims, including costs due to injury, work loss, property loss and damage, and counseling. They primarily used data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), considered to be the nation’s primary source of information on criminal victimization.

They found an average of 6 million violent and property crimes committed against students or staff in schools each year. The total direct costs to victims totaled $616 million each year with student victims alone accounting for nearly $400 million of that figure.

The researchers also found that school crime costs victims nearly $160 million in medical and mental health care each year, even though many victims do not get medical treatment or counseling. Among victims of assaults resulting in serious injuries, 72 percent of students and 54 percent of staff received medical treatment for their injuries. Even fewer received counseling, with less than a quarter of student victims and less than 1 percent of staff victims reporting mental health care.

“The costs we cite in the report are all conservative estimates,” said Hendrix, a research criminologist at RTI. “There are no good data available to reliably account for intangible effects, such as pain and suffering, or the costs experienced by vicarious victims – family and friends, first responders and those who witness violence.

“There is plenty of research left to be done on this issue,” he added.