Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Crime Prevention & Safety Tips: College Students (and parents)

Parents and some students-to-be might be a little worried about selecting a college to go to in light of the recent shootings in Louisiana and Northern Illinois. No worry, at least not too much: fortunately, those kinds of Columbine-type incidents are generally very rare on college campuses despite the publicity. Parents and would-be students should be more worried about the kind of things which are much more likely to happen to the student then mass shootings. And I wish it weren't so, but women students are much more likely to be victimized than guys are.

Some of the more likely security-related issues a student might confront are: date-rape, sexual harassment, stalking, burglary of your dorm room, binge-drinking, drunkenness, rowdy behavior linked to noisy parties, illicit drug use. Further, many students are victimized by common street crime: theft, burglary, and robbery. Most campuses are pretty safe, but when the sophomore moves off-campus into the areas surrounding the campus is when the problems are most likely to occur. However, there are plenty of exceptions to that last sentence.

Buz analysis and study of the matter indicates a wise and sensible parent/student would look for some of these qualities in a school:

A small school; most of these kinds of problems occur in the large “mega-universities”--particularly the mass shooting incidents, of which there are not many.
No or few Division I sports teams. Sorry, I am not a big football or basketball fan. Binge drinking, “festive” rioting, and domestic violence often accompany.
No fraternities; always high risk, especially for the gals. Again, binge-drinking, and date rape are big risks.
An ability to live on campus past the freshman year, if desired; most schools have no room.
The apparent absence high-crime areas adjacent to campus.

When you go to visit a school, you will typically get the guided tour. Betcha, the tour guide will not bring up security issues unless asked. If she does, it will be most likely to brag about how many security cameras they have. By all means, go on the guided tour, and keep your eyes open for security issues. Is security present and obvious? (Of course, your tour will be during the day, but still take a look.) Is it easy to get into the dorms? Do the surrounding areas feel safe?

Now, Buz knows that many students could care less about security when selecting the school. Hopefully, they'll go for the academics or a particular sport or other area they're interested—such as campus lifestyle.
However, here are some things you (parents or students) might investigate when you visit:
Try to visit on a Friday and stay overnight nearby. Check out the atmosphere on and adjacent to the campus—the later the better. What's going on? Lot's of drinking and rowdiness? See any good fights?! Anybody try to sell you some weed? How easy is it for your daughter to get into one of the nearby bars?
Go to the library and look at some recent issues of the student newspaper. Any editorials, articles, or letters to the editor about the victimization of students or incidents on campus?
Ask some women students: do you feel safe around here? Any crimes happen much? How's the security force? (Always ask open-ended questions).
See if you can walk into the dorm. Are the rooms locked, or can anyone walk into any room.

See what ya think! Of course, if you live in a big city, and are used to dealing with high-crime issues, you probably don't care, but for those of you who do, those are some of my thought to get you start thinking. And there's a lot more which can be said on this subject.

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