Risk Reporter for Educational Facilities
Fall 2013 Vol. 1, Issue 2
Effective ways to cut down campus crime
As much as we’d like to envision college campuses as serene hubs of learning, the truth is that they function more like small cities where crime is an unfortunate reality. It will never be possible to completely eliminate crime, but these steps can help minimize threats against students, staff and campus visitors.
Teach avoidance techniques
Stress the importance of traveling in groups, avoiding alleys and other problematic shortcuts, not wearing earbuds or headphones and not talking on the telephone when walking/jogging alone. “It’s critical to avoid situations that reduce awareness of your surroundings,” warned Sgt. Stephen Banet, the public information officer for crime prevention/victim services at the University of Denver. “Teach people to listen to that sixth sense that alerts you to danger.”
Make it easy to be informed
Use emergency notification systems that send texts, email blasts and voicemail alerts in the event of a crisis. “Only use this in a true emergency, or users will start to ignore it,” Banet cautioned. “Encourage people to tell others about the alert — only 46 percent of our campus has signed up for these, but we assume there will be someone in every class who has received the alert.”
Educate students and staff
Include safety awareness in new student and employee orientation. Find ways to regularly connect with students. Mandatory dorm programs are helpful, and self-defense classes and tabletop displays in dining halls and libraries are also valuable. Make connections with outside groups — such as the Greek system — and encourage them to make use of campus safety resources. Recognize that graduate students might be harder to reach and might be subject to different issues, such as spousal abuse, stalking and restraining orders.
Use some scare tactics
College students have an unfortunate tendency to overestimate their safety and assume problems “won’t happen to me.” One area where that might not hold true is car break-ins. “We post pictures of cars that have been broken into around campus, and that’s been quite successful in prompting more defensive behavior,” Banet said.
Be proactive about property theft
While students are routinely cautioned not to leave their personal items unattended in the library and to lock their dorm rooms, many ignore these warnings. “We have officers roaming the libraries and traveling in pairs throughout dorm floors,” Banet said. “If we see a computer left unattended for more than a minute or two or a room door left open, we’ll confiscate the computer or lock the room. We leave a note that tells the student how to reclaim their item or get back into their room — better to deal with inconvenience than theft. This has led to a decrease in personal property theft.”
Offer safe walk programs or on-campus shuttles
Walk programs are typically offered either with trained students — run background checks on all — or police officers. Services and shuttles are typically provided during certain hours and within an established radius of campus.
Recognize that men can be victims too
“Many programs and warnings are geared to women, but it’s crucial to stress that men aren’t immune from personal safety issues,” Banet said.
Form good relationships with city police
No campus is an island. Build a rapport with city police to gain a better awareness of the broader issues that could impact your campus.
Tap into social media
“Facebook, Twitter and Yammer have been incredibly helpful in understanding problem areas on and near campus and gaining student input and support,” Banet said. “Work with your communications department to use these effectively.”