Shooting by Campus Cop May Stir Debate

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The fatal shooting of a man attacking a woman at the University of Michigan on Tuesday is likely to bolster support for the controversial practice of arming campus police.

Responding to 911 calls, a University of Michigan police officer drove to a parking lot on the school's north campus shortly after midnight. The officer spotted the man as he stabbed Tamara Williams, a senior, who later died. The officer shot the man, identified as Kevin Nelson, when he refused to stop, campus public safety director Leo Heatley said.

Mr. Nelson shared an apartment with Ms. Williams but was not affiliated with the university.

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While an estimated 70 percent of larger, urban colleges employ armed police, but many smaller institutions do not. Administrators and faculty at these colleges often contend that the low violent-crime rate on these campuses doesn't warrant the use of guns and that such a step would "tarnish" the atmosphere. Campus security officers argue that colleges are not sanctuaries from a violent society.

Muddying the waters is a lack of good statistics. The federal Campus Security Act, passed in 1990, requires campuses to publish crime statistics. But critics of the law, such as Safe Campuses Now, a national organization based at the University of Georgia at Athens, say few colleges provide crime data. And, those that do often give misleading information. For example, at some colleges a large portion of the students live off campus. But many colleges don't report crimes that occur among students living off campus because the law doesn't require that data.

Sex-offense statistics also pose a problem. Campus police say that many victims of sexual assaults don't want to file an official report.

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