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Preventing Property Crime: How to Keep Your Stuff Safe on Campus

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As a group, college students aren’t typically known for having vast personal fortunes at their fingertips. That’s part of the reason why the petty theft that’s something of an epidemic on many U.S. college campuses can pose such a serious problem for its victims. When you don’t have two dimes to rub together, losing any of your personal property to crime can really put a crimp on your quality of life.

Whether it’s your bike, your textbook, or your last packet of ramen noodles that gets ganked, campus property crime bites the big one. If you’ve fallen victim to property crime in the past, you’re already well aware of what a drag it can be – and you’re definitely not alone. According to the FBI, property theft on campus is one of the only categories of criminal offenses that has not declined in recent years. In fact, more than 98% of all crimes that are reported on U.S. college campuses are related to property theft.

You’re Not Helpless

Even more than the nuisance of going without the stuff that’s been stolen and filing the official paperwork to report the incident, some victims of campus property crime say that it’s the sense of violation – of being unable to protect your own belongings – that is the very worst part of the whole experience. Many college students report feeling a pervasive sense of helplessness after having had their property stolen.

While there’s no way to guarantee you’ll be able to avoid property crime altogether during your college experience, you’re definitely not helpless. By cultivating just a few prudent habits and practices, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling prey to theft and other campus crimes. Here are a few commonsense tips from some of the nation’s top campus safety experts:

* Think like a criminal. One of the best ways you can protect yourself from theft is to develop a heightened awareness of your environment. Experts say that having street smarts means being able to put yourself in the place of the crooks that are keeping an eye out for loot. They’re always on the lookout, so you should be, too.

* Limit access, reduce benefits, and increase risk. In a way, a crime can be seen as something like a perverse business transaction. Criminals usually only make the leap if they think they have easy access to a high value item with little risk of being caught. You can skew this equation in your favor by tweaking the variables and making sure that the perceived risk of perpetrating a property crime on your stuff outweighs the potential benefits.

* Never leave your things unattended. You might think that this goes without saying, but each year, thousands of college students fall prey to property crime when they’re lulled into a false sense of security. Even if you’re among friends, even if you’re in familiar surroundings, even if you’re just turning your head just for a split second – it pays to always keep an eye on your stuff, no matter what.

* When it comes to cars or bikes, remember to look, lock, and leave. Look around when you pull into a parking lot or roll up to a bike rack. Take note of anyone suspicious in the area or unsafe surroundings. Lock your car or your bike securely, always taking the time to make full use of whatever security devices you have access to. Don’t tempt would-be thieves – leave nothing valuable in plain sight.

* Make your mark on your belongings. It may make you feel slightly un-hip, but most campus police swear that engraving or otherwise permanently putting your name and identifying information on your belongings is the very best way to ensure their safety – and to increase the chances that they’ll be returned to you in the event that they are stolen. You don’t have to obsessively engrave every pencil and pen in your possession, but do consider having your name engraved on your bike, your laptop, and any other high-value items.

What are you doing to protect yourself from property theft on campus? Have any of your friends fallen prey to campus property crime in the past? Share your experiences in the comments.

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