Although residents of college campuses are statistically safer than the general public, in 2014 over 88,000 campus crimes were reported. Here’s how to choose the safest environment possible—and help keep yourself from being a statistic.
Campus Safety Checklist
When you visit colleges, check safety features with questions such as:
1. Residence Halls
- Are the doors kept locked day and night? Are there indications that doors are often propped open?
- Is the exterior well-lit? Are lower-floor windows secured, and are shrubs and trees cut back?
- How is access controlled and monitored? Do residents use electronic key cards? Do visitors need ID? Who checks it? Is there an intercom or video surveillance?
- Are there adequate fire exits, sprinklers and fire extinguishers? (Check for these in other campus buildings too.)
2. Campus Security Force
- Does a security force patrol day and night? Who is on the force—professional security guards, police or students?
- Are there emergency phones around campus?
- Are there escort and shuttle services so you won’t have to walk alone at night?
- Is there video surveillance in public areas?
- Is there an emergency alarm system for campus-wide notification in a sudden crisis?
3. Safe Environment
- Most campus violence is related to alcohol or other drugs. Does the college have a strictly enforced policy regarding illegal drugs and underage drinking? How about underage drinking, sexual harassment, hate crimes, possession of firearms?
- Does the school notify parents or guardians if their student gets into trouble in any of these areas?
Monitor Crime Information
Thanks to the federal Jeanne Clery Act, colleges and universities must disclose crime statistics and campus security policies for the previous three years every October 1. Also, the Department of Education maintains a 6,000-college database of crime data by which you can quickly search any school’s safety record.
Six Tips for Students
No matter what safety practices are in force on campus, there’s no substitute for student vigilance. Here’s short list of tips from safety experts:
- Lock your door and don’t loan your key to anyone.
- Be careful how much personal information you put on social networking sites.
- Never walk alone at night. Use the campus escort service or the buddy system.
- Share your daily class and activities schedule with close friends and family. If you’re going somewhere alone, tell a friend where you’ll be and when you’re coming back.
- Know where emergency phones are located. Program the campus security number into your cell phone. (Be sure to keep your cell phone charged!)
- Don’t take a drink, alcoholic or otherwise, from anyone. It may be spiked with a date-rape drug.