Campus life is a step toward independence for many young adults because this is the first time they make decisions on their own. They form new social circles, live on their own in either a dorm or apartment, and feel a sense of empowerment. Many college students get so wrapped in their new life that they think nothing can happen to them. However, this new environment is not a cocoon of safety and security. Criminal offenses on college campuses include theft, rape, sexual harassment, and even murder. Many of these crimes go unreported, so statistics are hard to tabulate. Nevertheless, you can have a measure of safely on a college campus.
A simple way to stay safe on a college campus is to lock your doors. Most criminals are opportunists. They don’t want to work hard to victimize you. They look for unlocked cars and unlocked doors. Whenever you leave your car, lock all doors and the trunk, and don’t leave valuables in view. Upon entering your dorm or apartment, close and lock the door. Dorms and apartments have keys or swipe cards, so don’t just let people in the building you don’t know even if they say they are visiting someone.
Get to know campus police officers. These individuals are not simply glorified mall cops. They receive the same training as city police. When you think about it, a college with more than 30,000 students is like a small city. They have to be trained to handle the same situations that arise in a city. Go to the station and learn their names. If you see an officer in the student union or any other area on campus, introduce yourself. Like professors, campus police remember the names of people who try getting to know them.
Another way to remain safe on campus is remaining in well-lit areas of the campus and not walking alone at night. Students take evening classes, and many college libraries and learning labs are opened until midnight or 24-hours a day. If you have to go to these places late at night, have a friend accompany you. If you have to walk alone, stay in the light in areas where campus patrol frequently drive by and be alert of your surroundings and other people walking in the same area.
Find out if your campus offers SafeRide or SafeWalk programs. If your college has one or both of these programs, you call a number and a vehicle or person comes to your location and offers a ride to your residence. Some of these programs even go to off-campus locations. The programs at the University of Arizona transport you to neighborhoods where large numbers of students rent houses or apartments. They usually run until after midnight.
If you feel suspicious about someone, even your roommate, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. In September 2009, Yale graduate student Annie Le was murdered by someone she likely saw on a daily basis. We will never know if he gave her an uneasy feeling. In September 2007, University of Arizona student Galareka Harrison fatally stabbed her roommate, Mia Henderson. Reports state that Henderson had complained that Harrison had stolen personal information. This incident opened students’ eyes to the importance of reporting if you feel uncomfortable. Don’t give up if administrators don’t take complaints seriously.
Awareness, knowledge and common sense are the best ways to keep safe on college campus. In essence, you have to avoid unsafe situations, take advantage of campus resources, and be aware of your surroundings and people around you. Crime knows no boundaries; however, taking necessary precautions decreases the chances of becoming a victim. Independence means being careful about when and where you do things.