We just dropped off my daughter, who is a freshman at University of Southern California. As we were leaving her for the first time, I had an aching feeling about her safety. She lives in an “on-campus” apartment that is not-so-on-campus. She’s got a bit of a walk through her South Central Los Angeles neighborhood to get to class.
My youngest daughter is also a college freshman this year at Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. She has a whole other safety issue that made my heart lurch when I visited her new dorm for the first time this past fall. Her building is surrounded by fraternity houses. Surrounded.
I, in no way, mean to imply that my kids’ campuses are any more dangerous than others. The amount of violent crimes on college campuses might surprise even cautious and slightly paranoid parents, like myself. None of the colleges, not even the Ivies, are immune. (Well, actually–especially not the Ivies!)
Personal safety is no small matter on any college campus, especially for women.
We parents really don’t want to think about our daughters’ safety on campus. If we really stopped to think about it, the realities are scary enough to keep us awake at night. Unfortunately, when you learn the alarming statistics about crime on college campuses, it’s even scarier.
(Here is a great site that allows you to view reported crimes for a specific campus or campuses)
The good news is, according to the folks at TheDailyBeast.com, who in 2010 ranked colleges based on safety, campus crime rates have gone down. New approaches to security and advances in technology have contributed to safer campuses. Still, the numbers remain alarming. And I have to say; I was shocked at the count of forcible rapes and sexual assaults reported on campuses across the country.
(Go Here for the Daily Beast’s Rankings for the Safest Campuses, too)
We know that college students belong to the age group that believes they are immune to danger. They are much too high on life to let concerns about safety dampen their joie de vivre. But women, in particular, must be proactive about their safety while in school. And we parents must continue to remind them to take precautions; form good safety habits; and avoid risks.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Marcia Peot, full-time police officer and Chief Safety Officer of Street Safe, a new personal security company that brilliantly utilizes smartphone apps to keep folks safe. She offered some important tips for college students to incorporate into their lifestyles in order to keep themselves safe.
Here are Marcia Peot’s Seven Tips to Help Keep College Kids Safe (…and Help Parents Sleep at Night):
- Let friends or roommates know where you are going, who you are with and when to expect you home. Marcia Peot says: “At home, teens only check in as much as they are required to…In college they should open up a dialog with their roommates and friends about ways to keep up with each other…Also, our technology has caused us to abandon memorizing phone numbers. It’s still important to memorize key numbers, like a roommate’s and even campus security.”
- Never leave outside doors propped open, and don’t let strangers into secured buildings or residence halls. “When your apartment access buzzer goes off, don’t just let in the stranger at the door. Some people press all of the apartment buttons in hopes that someone will be careless.” Ms. Peot says don’t be that careless person who compromises the safety of everyone in the building!
- Never accept a ride from someone you don’t know, even if they are or claim to be a fellow student. Here’s the perfect scenario—You are in a hurry to get to class. You’re late. Someone you don’t know pulls up to offer you a ride. They have a school sweatshirt on. They say they know you from your chemistry class. You feel bad that you don’t remember them. (They may even be kinda cute!) And in order to save face, you accept the ride. Just because the stranger wears a school logo, doesn’t mean they go to your school. And even if they go to your school, it doesn’t mean they are not risky strangers. Someone with good intentions won’t shame you into taking the ride.
- When approaching your car or residence, have your keys in your hand and check the area for suspicious individuals or activity. Ms. Peot warns: “Don’t have your head in your purse digging for keys. Be aware of your surroundings.” Attackers know the profile of women cluelessly approaching their cars or buildings distracted and unaware.
- When walking by yourself, keep your expensive belongings, such as laptops and cell phones, hidden. You will be less of a target. Peot: “And keep your purse and the things you are carrying close to the body. Don’t make your belongings easy to snatch.”
- When dressed for cold weather, make sure hats and scarves do not obstruct your vision and hearing. “ We need all of our senses to be safe. If you cut them off, you become an easy target. Often students [in cold climates] have on a hat, scarf, gloves and coat. And then they add the ear buds in their ears! Now they are completely cut-off and unaware of what is going on around them.” If you are all covered up like this and you get attacked, “it’ll be done and over with before you even know what happened.”
- Consider taking extra measures to protect yourself. Universities have all taken considerable measures to protect their students. But there are additional ways to take your safety into your own hands and enhance the protections already available. One way to be extra-proactive is to subscribe to personal protection services, like Street Safe*. What I think is awesome about this service is that it allows you to use your technology (What college student is ever without his or her mobile phone) to connect to a live person who can either stay connected with you in the event you feel unsafe, or immediately send the police if you are in immediate danger. This is pretty state-of-the-art easy and relatively inexpensive. Street Smart is the kind of service a parent can provide for a college child, who may not think to take the extra security steps consistently on his or her own. I love the concept. Seems like a no-brainer!
Like all aspects of parenting advise to our children, we can lead our horses (college kids) to water (safety), but we can’t make them drink (think)! All we can do is give them the information and the tools to help them create safe habits. And even if they don’t seem to listen or care, at least they will have possession of the tools when and if they need them. This way, we parents can get back to the business of sleeping at night.
Takeaway: This is good advice for all families.