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Campus safety should always be a consideration when choosing a college. This is because, much like the “real world”, some schools have more crime going on than others. In fact, studies have shown that campuses with a higher number of property crimes are likely to see a higher number of violent crimes as well (and vice versa). It seems logical that a little bit of research and a sound decision can stop a problem before it happens.

When looking at the numbers, we should remain aware that as far as tracking goes, “violent crimes” include murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. I share this to help you understand what you’re looking at when you review the numbers that might be provided.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. To keep this in perspective, Burglary, Robbery, Motor Vehicle Theft, and Aggravated Assault make up the vast majority of the crimes committed on campuses. While these are definitely not good, most of these can actually be mitigated to some degree by making smart decisions regarding personal habits, such as locking your doors, ensuring valuables are out of sight, and so on.

So how bad is it really? The National Center for Education Statistics reports that there were more than 27,000 incidents of crimes against persons and property on public and private school campuses in 2014. That sounds like a lot but even at the most dangerous college in the United States, the violent crime rate was 20.4 incidents per 10k students and the property crime rate was 122.6 incidents per 10k students.

Don’t get me wrong; that pretty bad. I don’t mean to minimize that because I know that the people affected were probably changed for life. All I’m saying is that even if you send your student to a school such as UCLA or UCSB (arguably the most dangerous schools in the United States), it’s not like you’re sending them into a war zone. And things are getting better. In fact, just about all of the Clery Act Crimes are starting to show a reduction. 

Of course, what I have provided you thus far has all been “generally speaking.” My advice is a little more refined if we were talking about a young lady. This is not being sexist; this is being real.

Look at it this way: we lock up our valuables in our home because valuables are specific targets criminals. We are concerned about our cars and lock them up because cars are a specific target for criminals. So we take extra measures to ensure safety and security with the things known to be targets for criminals. Well, for young women, safety definitely needs to be on the radar because women are a specific target at universities. In fact, according to the Office of Postsecondary Education, Rape and Fondling incidents combined are as common as burglary.

campus crime
Adapted from Best Colleges – Campus Safety Guide

Now, you can do what you want with this information. You can ignore it; get angry about the way I presented it… or you can let it empower you. The choice is yours.

My belief is that knowledge is power. Think about it. You formed the habit of locking your car and hiding your bag because you understand the threat. That’s probably worked out alright for you so far. Essentially, you’ve become a harder target and criminals don’t like hard targets. They are going to choose the soft ones. So students need to become hard targets themselves. Parents need to teach their kids HOW to become harder targets.

The advice I provide here is simple. To begin with, choose a school with low crime rates. As I mentioned earlier, if schools have certain crimes, they are also likely to have others. Avoid those if you can. That’s half the battle right there. The second thing is to be extremely careful about what you post on social media. In other words: don’t advertise your vulnerabilities and habits.

Some other tips might include: don’t walk or live alone (if possible), watch your drinks VERY closely, don’t accept drinks from strangers, and learn some self-defense. Additionally, you should always lock your (house/dorm/apt) doors behind you (even when you’re home), lock your car, hide your bag/purse, lock your stuff up and keep valuables and cash out of view. And if you’re still not confident in your safety, look into apps like Noonlight; it’s an easy way to get help when you need it.

Hopefully, this gives you a few things to think about. I’m going to leave some links to help further your research efforts. Stay safe out there!


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