Time certainly flies by. Is it really August 1st already? In just a few weeks college campuses across the country will re-open to hundreds of thousands of 18 to 24 year old kids. After reviewing the governments national campus crime statistics, I think it is fair to raise the following question. Are kids safe on our college campuses? Should parents be concerned for the safety and personal security of their children on college campuses?
I think our colleges are still (for the most part) some of the safest places for any of us to be. With that said, they are not immune to crime! It would be wise for parents of college age children to channel their concerns into educating their kids about the potential dangers lurking and how to reduce their risk. Here are some facts taken directly from the the National Campus Crime Statistics Report. In 2007, their were:
- 44 – Murders
- 2511 – Forcible Sex offenses
- 1229 – Robberies
- 2164 – Aggravated assaults
- 26072 – Burglaries
Across the country, crimes such as rape, sexual assault, burglaries and home break-ins are noticeably increasing. So if you are about to send a child or loved one off to college in a few weeks, what steps can be taken to help ensure students are aware and prepared. Lets remember that in most cases, kids get their first taste of freedom or independence when they begin college. This can be a very tense and anxious time for parents and many kids are ill prepared and feel overwhelmed initially.
It is the case that most Universities dedicate huge amounts of money and resources to campus safety but personal security is a shared responsibility. By teaching your children to view it in this way they will tend to be more aware and proactive about crime. Here are some very basic things that everyone on a college campus should make a priority.
BE PREPARED FOR AN EMERGENCY. Save important emergency numbers on your cell phone right now in case you ever need to make a call. It would also be wise to set each number on speed dial so you don’t even have to dial the number. Post the same numbers around your dorm room or apartment in case of emergency. The time you save could save someones life.
STAY INFORMED ABOUT EMERGENCY PROCEDURES. Most college campuses and Universities have emergency operations centers to communicate with students, faculty and staff during an emergency. Take advantage of campus communications such as emergency test messaging, broadcast email, broadcast voice mail, and the university web site. These are free forms of communication, in most cases all you have to do is register.
LOCK YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS, ALWAYS. There should be no exceptions to this. Criminals look for easy targets and an unlocked door or window is an invitation for trouble. This includes your automobile as well. Make it a consistent practice to secure everything.
BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. One of my favorite sayings is “Awareness is the key.” This is a very true statement. Take a look around you, how many people are on their cell phones, listening to a ipod, or just oblivious to what’s going on around them. Criminals prey on people who seem to be unaware of their surroundings. If you “gut” tells you something is not right, trust it and get out or get help. Be sure to report any activity you feel is suspicious, you could prevent a crime from occuring.
WALK IN GROUPS WHEN POSSIBLE. Remember their is power in numbers. Whenever possible go places in groups. If you are walking, jogging, or exercising take a buddy with you if possible. If you are driving, bring a friend, use the campus transit or call a licensed taxi.
LOOK OUT FOR THOSE AROUND YOU. Make it a practice to look our for each other. College is a community, be sure to look after your friends and neighbors. Discuss and encourage safety with your dorm mates or neighbors.
USE A DESIGNATED DRIVER WHENEVER ALCOHOL OR DRUGS ARE INVOLVED. I don’t condone the use of drugs by anyone; its illegal and you are breaking the law by possessing or using drugs. I do realize that the reality is some college age students do use or experiment with drugs and alcohol. So, if you are planning to go out or attend a function where drugs and/or alcohol will be present use a designated driver program. The designated driver is responsible for remaining sober and making sure that everyone gets home safe and sound. You can rotate among your close friends. This can also be an excellent deterrent against crimes such as drug induced rape. This is where an unsuspecting person (usually female) consumes a spiked beverage which leaves them helpless to defend against rape or sexual assault. The designated driver should be in a position to recognize that something is wrong and get help. The rule should be, IF YOU CAME TOGETHER YOU LEAVE TOGETHER…NO EXCEPTIONS.
CONSIDER CARRYING NON-LETHAL SELF DEFENSE PRODUCTS By carrying and learning to properly use self defense products such as pepper spray or a stun gun you could prevent or deter an attack. There are also many inexpensive security devices such as motion alarms, door and window alarms that will help prevent a crime at your dorm or apartment.
I hope you will find these tips to be useful. The best thing you can do is to share them with your friends, family and neighbors. Remember, “Awareness is the key.”