Safety First: 14 Ways to Ensure Security on Campus
The myOptions Team
When it comes to college campuses, it’s easy to feel as though you are inhabiting a safe bubble. You’re in an insular community, surrounded by friends, professors, and an endless supply of Frosted Flakes from the dining hall. However, though the environment may wear a façade of protection, colleges and universities are a part of the real world. And, unfortunately, crimes are committed everywhere. When it comes to choosing a college, you want to spend the next four years on a campus that makes you feel comfortable and secure. Here are some tips to ensure your own security on campus:
1. Sign up for police alerts.
Many colleges will have you sign up for campus police alerts at orientation. This is a great way to know about crimes as soon as they are reported. By remaining aware of what is going on, you can be wise in when and where you decide to go places. It also allows for the community to stay united and alert in a state of emergencies.
2. Keep that on lock.
Lock your dorm room when you leave. Sure, the vast majority of your peers are honest, trustworthy people. However, you never know who may have accidentally gotten access to your building. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, don’t prop dormitory doors open or randomly buzz people into your building because you can never be sure who is entering. If the visitor is waiting for a friend who resides in your dorm, the friend should be the one to let them inside.
3. Stay heavy on the lighting.
When you go on college visits, you’re likely visiting the campus in the daytime, so you may not notice the amount of lighting the campus has in its parking lots and pathways. Visit the college at night to get a feel for how safe you’ll be walking from your night class back to your dorm. If a day visit is your only option, take special care to pick out how much lighting is in parking lots, pathways, and open spaces throughout the campus.
4. Stick to central pathways.
You’re going to be doing a lot of walking on campus, and although it’s always best to walk in the daytime, we know some of that walking will be at night. Do your best to commit to walking at night with friends or fellow classmates. Check out what kind of central pathways the campus has -- are there just a few main pathways? Or do the pathways twist around the buildings, leaving you walking in poorly illuminated and out-of-main-sight areas? It’s ideal to find yourself at a campus with mostly main pathways that connect each building, and with each pathway being out in the open.
5. Use a code word.
If you are out with friends, create a code word to say that would discreetly help you get out of risky situations. (Ex: Phrases like “Jane needs you!” or “I need to talk to Jane!” can be sneaky ways to get away from people that make you uneasy). There are even some places, like certain bars, that have code words of their own. Some bars say to ask for “Angela” if you feel uncomfortable. Or other places say to order an “Angel shot.” Once you use this code word, the bartenders will know you need help and they will likely have a protocol to keep you safe. Do a little bit of research on the restaurants and bars near you so you are brought up to speed on the procedures for your respective hangouts. And of course, never leave your drink unattended.
6. Get engraved.
Many schools offer engraving services for laptops, bikes, and other personal items. Rather than ingraining initials (that you might share with other people), some police departments suggest inscribing your state issued driver’s license number. You can also keep your computer safe from theft by using commercial location software (Apple's FindMyiPhone is one example).
7. Use blue lights in case of emergency.
You probably heard the campus tour guide rattle off something about emergency call boxes on campus. You doubt you’ll ever have to use one, so you tune out. Attacks on college campuses have only become more and more common, and although it’s a scary thought, it could happen to you. Most campuses should have blue lights throughout parking lots, in the front of each building, and along pathways. If you feel unsafe, witness a crime, or even experience car trouble, you can press the call button on the blue light which will connect you to a dispatcher at the campus police department. Typically you can wait by the blue light until responders come to escort you home. If someone is following you, you also have the option to press every blue light you see as you are walking. That way, the police can track your route and intercept you.
8. Pay attention to campus crime statistics.
Virtually all colleges and universities have a campus safety office. Though many campus safety officers are not actually law enforcement, they work diligently to prevent crime. And they can tell you about the tools, techniques, and tactics employed to help ensure the school is safe. Further, all colleges are mandated to report crimes committed on campus. However, when researching these statistics, you need to be smart in your assessment. Schools keep track of crime differently. It’s important to understand whether or not reports take criminal activity in the surrounding area into account, or whether they only concentrate on-campus violations.
Additionally, you need to evaluate the specific incidents that are being reported. For example, a college might have a number of offenses logged, but the majority could be for minor infractions such as a parking ticket. And you also need to realize that not all crimes will be reported. Therefore, it’s always best to pair these statistics with the information you can glean directly from students. Do they feel safe walking around campus? Are they comfortable trekking back to their dorm alone at night? Chances are, if they think the area is secure, you will too.
9. Never walk alone.
One of the most underused campus services is the security escort service. Ask the campus security office if any student organizations provide escort services to walk you from your night class back to your dorm, to the gym at night, or to your car in the back parking lot. Most campuses do offer this assistance, yet few students ever use them. Not only will you feel safe and confident walking around campus at night, but it’s another way to meet new people!
10. Be careful with Tinder.
With the way we use technology nowadays, it only makes sense that our social lives and romantic relationships would move over the internet as well. It’s important to remain wary if you do decide to download dating apps. If you meet someone you are interested in, get a last name and a phone number so that you can find them on other social media platforms. (We encourage creeping so that you can make sure this person is who they say they are). You can also reverse google search images to check if other profiles come up under different names.
If you find someone on Facebook and they only have one picture, few friends, and no bio information, it’s a good idea to stay away. If you have mutual friends, that may make it easier to find them on other social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. (You could even reach out to a friend and ask about their connection to your potential date). If you do decide to meet up with someone in person, make sure to meet during the daytime in a public place you are familiar with. If your date offers to give you a ride, DECLINE. Let friends know where you are, who you are going to be with, and even consider having a friend sit nearby in case something happens.
11. Share Uber rides.
There once was a time when your parents taught you to NEVER EVER get into a car with a stranger. Oh, how times have changed. When it comes to Uber, Lyft, and other transportation services, it’s important to remember that you are riding with an unfamiliar individual. If you can, avoid being caught alone and share your rides with friends. If you must opt for a solo ride, you should turn on location services that allow loved ones to track you. (Just in case).
12. Turn off SnapMap.
With the new Snapchat updates, people can see your exact location. This can be a fun, amusing way to keep track of friends, and for friends to keep track of you. Before adding your location to your snapchats and snap stories, sift through your friends and unfriend people you no longer keep in touch with. Consider relationships that have gone sour that may be problematic in the future. It’s a prime idea to utilize the custom settings on your snapchat that allow you to pick and choose which friends have access to your location. Your close friends and family are really the only people that need to know where you are.
13. Take basic self- defense.
Your school or your local police department will likely offer some sort of basic self-defense class. By taking these courses, you will feel more confident walking around campus knowing that if a situation ever called for you to protect yourself, you would be able to do so. If it would make you feel more secure, you can also think about investing in self-defense keychains or pepper spray. (Just make sure you don’t accidentally spray yourself).
14. Go with your gut.
Trust your instincts. If you are troubled by someone or something, there’s probably a good reason for it. When your body responds to certain situations, (whether it be a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, or heavy breathing) be inquisitive and think about why these reactions transpired. Take a deep breath, and try to articulate your feelings. Do you feel anxiety or anger? Are you afraid of acting on your gut? Explore the context of your feelings. Are there social rules preventing you from listening to your gut reaction?
Here’s an example: It’s a Saturday night, and you see a student stumbling around campus all alone, clearly intoxicated. They don’t seem okay. Your gut instinct is to call someone for help, but your mind tells you it’s none of your business. In this case, if you ignore your initial gut reaction, it’s because you feel it’s socially inappropriate to insert yourself into a stranger’s personal life. Most of the time, your gut reaction is correct. So don’t doubt yourself or talk yourself out of taking action if something doesn’t feel right. Speak up and alert the proper people/authorities.
During your time at college, you will be exposed to new people, ideas, and passions. A time meant for adventure and exploration, it’s important to choose a college where you feel secure. By remaining aware of safety precautions, you will truly be able to revel in these memorable experiences safely.