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Crime on Campus: What you Can Do to Keep Yourself Safe

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If you pay attention to the media, you probably think that the crime rate on college campuses is high. If you compare campus crime date to national crime date, you’ll find that college campuses are relatively safe places.

A college campus is a microcosm of society in general. Crime is going to occur. Crimes seen on college campuses include murder, forcible and non-forcible sex offenses including rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, vandalism, and arrests for violations of liquor, drug and weapons law violations.

The biggest problem on college campuses is theft. About 40,000 property crimes occur at colleges and universities yearly. Thefts occur in academic buildings and residence halls. Students will leave their door unlocked or their belongings unattended and run down to the cafeteria or vending machines – when they return, they find their laptop has been stole. Rarely is a room broken into. Theft is usually a crime of opportunity. Use common sense to prevent theft. Lock your door (even if you’re just heading down the hall), lock your car, and don’t leave valuables unattended. Consider your textbooks a valuable. Textbooks are often stolen and then sold for cash during book buy back at the end of the semester.

You should have researched your school’s crime statistics when making your initial college choice. If you didn’t, do it before arriving on campus. College and university campus crime data is available from two major sources, the U.S. Department of Education (the Jeanne Clery Act) and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program. Since 1992, all colleges have been required by federal law to compile annual statistics about crime on their campuses and to provide them to their students, faculty, and staff. College crime statistics can be viewed at the office of postsecondary education of the U. S. Department of Education.

When choosing your college, look for campuses that have embraced technological solutions in crime prevention. Key-card systems and video surveillance in public areas can cut down on criminal activity. More recent technologies include services that transform students’ mobile phones into personal alarm devices.

Consider your school’s drug and alcohol policies. Most campus crime is alcohol or drug related. Heavy drinking makes you more likely to commit crime or become a victim of crime. Alcohol is involved in 90% of campus crime.

There is controversy surrounding parent-notification policies. It is stressed to college students that they are adults and should be responsible for their own behavior. Parent-notification policies take that responsibility away from the student by notifying parent of certain behaviors. Some of these include trouble with drugs and alcohol, failing grades, suicide attempts, and perpetrating violence. Before passage of the federal parental notification law, officials at most schools had refused to tell parents about student drug and alcohol violations, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, a 1974 law on the privacy of student records. Parents had argued for years that they have a right to be notified of their children’s life-threatening habits. Section 952, Alcohol or Drug Possession Disclosure, of the Higher Education Act, is still being widely debated both on- and off-campus. The law clearly permits schools to disclose to parents violations of not only local, state, and federal laws but also school policies and rules governing the use or possession of alcohol or controlled substances.

There is only so much school officials can do to protect students. Implementing a few safety guidelines can help lessen a student’s chances of becoming a victim of crime.

  • Use the Buddy System

Don’t isolate yourself. Walk in groups, or at least in pairs. Stay in well-lighted areas. Use the campus escort service. If you absolutely have to be alone, make sure you have a working cell phone with you in case an emergency occurs.

  • Stay Alert

Pay attention to what is going on around you. Take out the headphones to your iPod, get off the cell phone, and be more aware. Your eyes and your ears are your best defense.

  • Listen to your Instincts

If you think someone is following you, do not ignore the thought. Go to a safe place. If you feel like you are in immediate danger, run, scream, flash your lights, honk your horn, or make a scene. Attract as much attention as you can to your situation.

  • Communicate your Schedule

Let your friends and roommates your schedule. Tell people where you plan to be and when you expect to return but exchange this information discreetly.

  • Utilize University Services

If your school has an after-hours escort service, use it. If you are working alone in a lab or classroom at night, lock the doors and let security know you are alone. If you ever feel in danger, do not hesitate to dial 9-1-1 or the university police.

  • Don’t be Careless with your Personal Information

Avoid displaying personal information on mail boxes, key chains, book bags, doors, etc. Leave a short, non-descript voice on your voice mail or answering machine. The less information a caller can learn from your message, the better.

  • Do Not Open your Door to Strangers

Check for credentials before opening your door. Verify the visitor by calling the office that sent them. If someone asks to use your phone, offer to make the call for them, but don’t let them come in to use your phone. If your door doesn’t have one, install a peephole.

  • Stay in your Car

If your car breaks down, stay in your car with the doors locked. Use a cell phone to call for help. If you don’t have a phone, ask someone to call the police for you.

  • Be on the Lookout for Strangers

If you encounter a stranger in your residence hall, ask them if you can help them. Let them know you are aware of their presence. Ask them to wait outside while you contact the person they are looking for. Be friendly but firm. Do not hesitate to call campus police if you feel unsafe at any time.

  • Keep a Record of your Personal Belongings

Keep a record of the serial numbers of all your belongings. Items of value can be engraved with your social security or driver’s license number. Keep photographs of your valuables. Check for insurance policies to cover your belongings if they’re stolen or damaged. This may be covered by your parent’s home-owners policy.

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