A month ago I received a text alert from my daughter’s college campus about a murder. I was unable to sleep and was overwhelmed with stress … even though my daughter was at home safe and sound for the summer. It turned out that the murder was unrelated to the campus population, but that incident really concerned me. For the parents of college students, this time of year can be very unnerving as we send our children off to, or back to, college.
I thought I had adequately evaluated the safety of every campus my daughter visited before she chose her school. Although I am confident that she is in a safe environment, there were a couple of areas that I did not investigate and later discovered, which caused concern. It’s important to recognize potential safety threats so that our children can choose the best campus, or just so that they are aware. Here are 4 areas to evaluate at your child’s college to ensure his or her safety.
#1 – Does the campus have a police department or security?
I’m going to be honest, I feel more comfortable with full-fledged police officers than security. In my experience, police officers are better trained and screened than security officers. If a school has security officers, find out if they are armed. Personally, I would have real concerns about sending my children to a school that cannot defend them against lethal threats. I would also find out how many officers or security guards work and their hours. Is there security 24/day, 365 days/year … or do they go home at 2 o’clock in the morning and leave over the holidays?
#2 – What types of crimes have been reported?
My guess is that asking the police chief or head of security what types of crime they encounter will yield answers such as “under-age drinking, disorderly conduct and theft.” The real concerns, however, should be any crimes against persons (rape, battery, homicide). At my daughter’s school, I found an online log of every police call for several years. The log provided a short narrative of the incident and suspect information. When I initially looked through the campus calls for service, I saw no red flags. Then I saw the word “assault” several times. This term is misleading and generic, so when I read the description of the incident, I discovered that there were 3 cases of “assault,” which appeared to me to be sexual assault, in the year prior. The reports did not say “sexual assault” or “sexual abuse,” as I am accustomed to seeing. Each case was closed administratively, meaning it was not solved. Although I am uncomfortable with these cases remaining unsolved, the information allowed me to have a conversation with my daughter and warn her. I told her the locations these crimes occurred and gave her the suspect’s description and I reminded her not to walk alone.
#3 – What types of security measures are in place?
There are many measures that campuses can and should implement to ensure your child’s safety. These include text/email alerts, building security, lighting and the availability of emergency telephones. Some campuses have elaborate camera systems and have officers assigned to monitor those cameras.
All schools should have a notification system for students and parents. This can be email or text alerts for incidents such as active shooters, natural disasters and inclement weather/school closures. Keep your contact information up to date so that notification can be made and your child can avoid unnecessary danger.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a concept that discusses how to reduce crime through specific environmental design measures. Some suggestions include making sure that trees, shrubs and dumpsters do not provide a hiding place for violent offenders, ensuring that buildings are locked, and that building entrances, walking paths, and parking lots are well-lit. Make sure that your child’s campus is environmentally designed to ensure safety. If you see something that could pose a safety issue, report it.
#4 – What surrounds the campus?
One area I failed to fully investigate was the area surrounding my daughter’s campus. My daughter chose a school with a campus in the country. It wasn’t until we registered for her classes that my son pointed out a map of the surrounding area. Indeed, her campus was set in a forest-preserve-type atmosphere, but just beyond the tree line I discovered there was a prison and a drug rehabilitation center! I was not happy to find this out when I did, but I was relieved to have discovered it in time to warn my daughter. Before school started, we had a serious review about personal safety, mindset and trusting your instincts.
It is not too late to evaluate the security measures at your child’s college. As you move your child onto campus this fall, take note of the aforementioned areas. Make sure your children are aware of any dangers that lurk on, or beyond, their campus.