What do students need to study productively and live their young lives without additional stress? My answer to this question is campus safety. That’s right. I think it’s a primary condition, especially for international students. I have just recently graduated from university, so I remember very well my initial feelings of being cut off from home and getting used to a new society. It was very stressful in itself. And when, on top of that, you don’t feel safe moving around the campus, you won’t be able to accomplish much. I think crime prevention is an extremely important topic, and I invite you today to explore how you can keep yourself safe while in college.
What Is a Campus Crime and How Common Is It?
At their core, crimes on campuses are no different from crimes that occur anywhere else. In simple terms, it is an offense in which a person or property is harmed in some way. The part “campus” in the phrase “campus crime” makes it clear that illegal acts occur in or around educational institutions.
In general, most of the campuses are safe. Otherwise, parents would not let their children go to school. However, campus crimes do occur, and it is important to know their most common types. This will make you prepared and help you take appropriate precautions. The most common crimes on campuses are the following:
- Theft of personal belongings. This type of offense may or may not involve violence, but in any case, the victim suffers material and moral damage from the crime. This can include the theft of things like laptops or bicycles, for example.
- Assault. A direct attack on the well-being and/or freedoms of a person. Assault can range from verbal threats to physical violence.
- Drug-related crimes. Violations involving the possession, distribution, or sale of drugs of any kind on campus. This also includes the abuse of prescription drugs.
- Alcohol-related violations. Irresponsible consumption and unlawful distribution or possession of alcohol by or to minors.
- Sexual violence. Sexual contact or actions of a sexual nature without the consent of another person. This crime ranges from unwanted touching, harassment to rape.
- Stalking. Threatening behavior that involves repeated harassment, surveillance, or online abuse that puts the victim in fear for their safety.
- Cybercrimes. Crimes committed with the use of digital technologies. These include hacking, cyberbullying, and even identity theft.
- Hate crimes. Unlawful acts directed against individuals or groups on the basis of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other protected characteristics.
Every year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security provides statistics on crimes committed on university campuses or related areas. These campus crime statistics should be treated critically because these data depend on how scrupulously a particular educational institution documents the violations. My point is that you should not blindly believe the statistics, but you should still take them into account. For example, let’s look at Penn University, which is famous for its academic reputation and is a prestigious educational institution. In general, according to the aforementioned bureau’s data for 2019, violations of varying severity occurred at a rate of 25 violations per 1,000 students here. This is a surprisingly low rate, considering that this college has more than 91,000 students enrolled. It is especially striking if we again look at the statistics offered by other American universities for the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security. According to their data, the highest rate of offenses per 1,000 students is almost as high as 11,000.
These statistics make it very clear that campus crime is a recurring occurrence. At some schools, it is more frequent, at others less, but it does happen. Campus safety is something we can’t ignore.
I provide these statistics not to scare you but to emphasize the need to be vigilant and know how to protect yourself.
Theft of Personal Belongings: How to Protect Your Valuables
We live in an imperfect world where decent people live alongside those who are bent on stealing other people’s property. Unfortunately, one of the most common problems on campus is the theft of personal belongings. To protect your property, it is important to take proactive measures in crime prevention. Below, I will give you some practical tips on how to do this.
- Keep valuables out of sight. Don’t flaunt valuable items such as laptops, smartphones, or jewelry, and never leave them unattended. Alternatively, consider purchasing a theft-proof bag with hidden compartments.
- Use the security features of your gadget. Biometric security features to prevent unauthorized access will reduce the temptation to steal your gadget. Additionally, you can install tracking apps on your smartphones, laptops, and other devices.
- Lock your doors and windows. Never leave your room’s doors and windows ajar when you are not at home, even for a short time.
- Use lockers and safes. If your campus has lockers or safes, you can store your most valuable items there. Make sure that only you have the combination or key to your locker.
- Personalize and keep records. A cool life hack is to add special markings to your belongings, such as stickers or engraving. A less creative but more effective way is to keep a record of your valuables. Information about serial numbers, models, and purchase receipts can be very helpful in the event of theft.
Assault on Campus: Ensuring Your Personal Safety
An equally common offense that occurs on campus is assault. In order to protect yourself and prevent such a threat, you need to follow the simple rules I will give you below.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Be vigilant when walking around campus, and pay attention to your surroundings, especially when you are alone. It is better to avoid wearing headphones or using your phone at night.
- Walk with a friend or in groups. Avoid walking alone whenever possible. Always try to walk with someone, especially at night.
- Choose well-lit paths. When walking at night, stay on well-lit and busy paths. Avoid taking shortcuts through dimly lit or secluded areas.
- Crime prevention: Learn self-defense. Consider taking a self-defense class to build self-confidence and learn personal defense techniques.
- Ensure the safety of your place of residence. Make sure your dorm or apartment has secure locks on the doors and windows. Use peepholes and check the person’s identity before opening the door.
- Use the services of campus security. You should know all the necessary campus safety resources, such as university police and emergency phone locations. Always have emergency contact numbers with you.
Cybersecurity Awareness: How to Protect Yourself
The modern world is tightly connected with digital technologies. I could say that an attacker can find any data about you with some awareness and direct access. That’s why it’s more important than ever to know how to protect yourself from a cyberattack. Here are some tips I use myself.
- Strong passwords. Do NOT use your pet’s name and your year of birth as a password, please. Never neglect the rule about separate passwords for each of your online accounts. It’s a good idea to have a trusted password manager to create and safely store all your passwords.
- Use two-factor authentication (2FA). This rule is important and effective, it’s not a “waste of time,” as some say. Allow 2FA in your online accounts and add an extra level of security.
- Use social media consciously. Be careful who you share your personal information with on social media. Cybercriminals can use it to steal your identity. Important data are not only your address and full name, the name of your pet and even the name of your school is important, too. Be vigilant about your personal safety.
- Make sure your devices are well protected. Install reliable antivirus software on all your devices, including smartphones and tablets. Remember to use PINs or biometric authentication.
- Back up your data regularly. Don’t forget to back up important files and documents to an external storage device or cloud storage. In the worst-case scenario, this could be the straw that keeps you afloat.
Campus Safety: Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention
College is a period of experimentation and discovery of different sides of your personality. This doesn’t mean you must indulge in all the “joys” of adulthood. Abusing alcohol and other substances will bring you nothing but ruined health at best. So, be responsible about alcohol consumption.
- Respect the legal drinking age. Don’t roll your eyes. I just want to say that these restrictions are set by law for a reason. Respect them, and don’t use fake IDs to access alcohol.
- Don’t give in to peer pressure. If you don’t want to drink alcohol or use drugs, it is your choice. Don’t let anyone force you to do it. Surround yourself with friends and acquaintances who respect your decision.
- Crime prevention: Know your limits. If you do decide to have a couple of beers, be responsible. Take into account your personal tolerance for alcohol, and don’t go too far. Please avoid excessive alcohol consumption, it is important.
- Avoid mixing substances. As you have already understood, I am against drinking alcohol and do not advise anyone to drink it. However, if you don’t mind having a few drinks during the evening, never mix different types of alcohol, especially with other substances. Take care of your well-being and campus safety.
- Never leave drinks unattended. When you are at a party, keep an eye on your drink to prevent its switching. Never accept a drink from a stranger or someone you don’t know well.
Sexual Assault Prevention
The most disgusting campus crime is sexual assault. Unfortunately, such crimes do occur, and you need to be careful not to become a victim. Among the rules to follow to avoid sexual assault are many of the ones I mentioned earlier: don’t walk alone, learn self-defense techniques, use social media consciously, drink alcohol responsibly, and make sure your room door and windows are locked securely. I can also add the following:
- “No” is a complete sentence. You have the right to say “no” at any time.
- Trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable, you should leave.
- Carry pepper spray in your bag. Always hold your keys in your hand when walking through a park or parking lot, especially at night.
- If you find someone’s behavior toward you suspicious or strange, contact the Campus Safety Department.
As I said, this world is not perfect, and crimes happen every day, both on and off campus. I hope my little guide has given you some useful tips on how you can protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim of the most common campus crimes. Stay safe!