How to avoid becoming a victim of campus crime

(ARA) – It’s no secret. In small towns and large cities across the country, colleges and universities are magnets for crime, both on and off campus. While students may feel relatively safe at college, the reality is that at some point in their college careers, many college students will become a victim of crime, ranging from relatively minor incidents such as the theft of a bike or a backpack – the most common form of campus crime – to more serious crimes such as sexual assault, identity theft and hate crimes.

Recent high profile crimes at some of America’s most prestigious universities offer a serious reminder to college students and their parents that campus crime is very real and can happen at big universities or small, rural college campuses.

One of the first steps that students and parents may want to take in understanding the level of crime at their college campus is to visit the Office of Post Secondary Education (OPE) Campus Security Web site at http://ope.ed.gov/security. The OPE provides crime statistics for individual institutions of higher learning, as well as for groups of schools. According to FindLaw.com, one of the world’s leading online sources of legal information, all post-secondary institutions that receive Title IV funding (those that participate in federal student aid programs) are required under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act to report alleged criminal offenses to campus security authorities and/or local police agencies. The act, in tribute to Jeanne Clery, a Lehigh University student who was murdered in her dorm room, was signed into law by President Clinton.

You can also ask for crime statistic information directly from a college or university. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this information often represents a fraction of the actual crime that takes place on a typical college campus, since many campus crimes go unreported by college students.

Here are some other tips offered by FindLaw.com on how to avoid becoming a victim of campus crime:

* Become familiar with the security system at your college or university. Find out how to report a crime (such as the location of emergency call boxes); where to get crime alerts; how to access community safety officers and escorts when going to and from buildings and parking lots on campus; and where to ask for specific security procedures for your dorm if you’re living on campus.

* Use alcohol with caution. The use of alcohol can make a student more vulnerable to crime, and it can increase aggressiveness in other students. According to a study by Towson State University, half of all rapes on college campuses involve alcohol. In another study by the Harvard School of Public Health, 77 percent of students who live around a binge drinker will experience at least one secondhand effect of the drinking, such as assault or receiving a DUI. It’s best to drink responsibly and in moderation. Avoid attending and especially leaving a college party alone. In addition, never accept a drink from a stranger and don’t leave a drink unattended.

* Become familiar with areas immediately surrounding your college campus that may offer higher incidences of crime. Check with your campus security office about areas to avoid.

* Avoid posting too much personal information on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, which can be used by stalkers.

* Write your name in permanent ink on valuables such as books, laptops, stereos and TVs. Never include other personal information such as your address, social security number or birth date, which could be used by identity thieves.

* Don’t walk alone at night, and stick to well-lit streets and areas. If you believe you’re being followed, walk fast to an area where there are people or a security guard. Be aware of your surroundings at night and have your keys readily available. Avoid being one of the only or few students in a campus building by yourself. Use the security services provided by your university, such as a campus escort service.

* Many schools publish student phone numbers and e-mail addresses on a Web site. Under the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act, you can ask your college or university to remove your personal information.

* The overwhelming majority of rapes involve someone the victim knows. To many, it’s known as date rape. Sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault, but you can take steps to avoid it. Clearly communicate what you want and don’t want. Set your limits before you go on a date. Use caution if you and your date are using alcohol. Let a friend or roommate know with whom you’re going on a date, where you’re going and when you think you’ll be back.

* Park in well-lit areas that are close to foot traffic. Roll up your windows, lock the doors and never leave valuables in plain sight, including college textbooks. Use a college escort when returning to your car when it’s dark.

* Prevent dorm room burglary and other crimes by always keeping your dorm room locked, even when you’re in it. Never let a stranger into your dorm or campus apartment building. Don’t prop open doors or windows to allow friends to get in or out after curfew hours. If you see a door or window into your dorm braced open for others to get in, close the door and make sure it’s locked. Don’t loan out your room key or fob to anyone, and don’t put your name or address on your room key.

For more information about how to avoid campus crime, visit FindLaw.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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