The SafeWise Report

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50 Safest College Towns in America

2015's Safest College Town in America

Whether you’re sending your “baby” off to college or you’ve chosen to live out your dreams in the comfort of a college town, safety and security can be a major concern. In order to give you a sense of how college towns all over the nation are protecting their communities, SafeWise security experts evaluated the most recent FBI crime statistics available. Then we coupled that data with our own research that focuses on safety-related programs and initiatives, culminating in 2015’s “50 Safest College Towns in America.”

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1. Brookings, South Dakota

In addition to being America’s safest college town, Brookings ranked #12 on SafeWise’s “100 Safest Cities in America” list and is home to South Dakota State University—the largest university in the state. For its part, SDSU has instituted a Behavioral Intervention Team that addresses potential threats to the community incidental to town-gown relations. And, with an ever-changing population of young people, the Brookings Police Department leads the way in community outreach by featuring initiatives like the LGBT Liaison that foster trust and cooperation with young adults and older community members alike.

  • South Dakota State University

2. Charleston, Illinois

Home to Eastern Illinois University, Charleston ranked #41 on SafeWise’s “100 Safest Cities in America.” Back in the day, Abraham Lincoln frequented the town before becoming president, debating and participating in legal proceedings. Following the example of Lincoln, Charleston continues to make civic engagement and education a priority with programs like the “Afterschool Club,” in which staff organize field trips and assist with homework time. Over at EIU, the Office for Environmental Health and Safety educates the university community with downloadable emergency plans available online—providing the entire community with a healthy sense of safety and stability.

  • Eastern Illinois University

3. Rexburg, Idaho

Formerly Ricks College, Brigham Young University-Idaho’s growth over the last decade has helped fuel the economy of this rural town near West Yellowstone. But Rexburg’s growth in student population and economic prosperity hasn’t translated into a spike in crime, in part because the town’s police department and BYU-Idaho have both taken measures to curb sexual assault. Both institutions feature free self-defense classes like the police’s “Rape Aggression Defense Systems” course, and BYU-Idaho’s rape prevention class. These programs empower women by giving them tools to confront and/or avoid attackers.

  • Brigham Young University-Idaho  

4. Elon, North Carolina

Located near the college confluence of Raleigh-Durham, the charming town of Elon is home to Elon University—a private university known for its emphasis on engaged and experiential learning. The university provides safety education programs such as disaster drill planning, and self-awareness and safety workshops, which give community members a hands-on, safety experience. Likewise, the Elon Police Department engages the community using RAIDS Online—an interactive crime map of the town—in order to empower citizens to make informed decisions about how to stay safe and feel more secure.

  • Elon University

5. Canyon, Texas

Canyon is home to West Texas A&M University, and serves as the gateway to Palo Duro Canyon State Park—a scenic oasis in the otherwise flat, West Texas plains. As gatekeepers of the city, the Canyon Police Department use high-tech solutions like Nixle Engage—which uses Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in addition to email and SMS, to communicate with residents—to get the word out quickly about public safety concerns. On campus, the university police employ a Victim Assistance Coordinator, who provides guidance and resources to crime victims, which often times includes meeting the emotional, financial, or medical needs of affected individuals.

  • West Texas A&M University

6. Durham, New Hampshire

Located on the Great Bay and connected to the Atlantic Ocean, Durham is home to the main campus of the University of New Hampshire. In keeping with the principles of community policing, the Durham Police reach out to marginalized groups that have traditionally suffered from fraught relationships with law enforcement through the Liaison to Community Groups. Similarly, the university engages community members through its Citizen Police Academy. Not to worry though, the university police assure us that “There is no yelling, no push-ups, and no written exams,” making police outreach a fun and productive activity for community members.

  • University of New Hampshire

7. Highland Heights, Kentucky

Nestled in the Kentucky hills near Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky University calls Highland Heights its home. In order to keep their city safe, the police of Highland Heights frequently update a news blog with safety tips and notices for residents, including both back to school safety and consumer scam tips. The university also makes a concerted effort to reach out to its community members. The university police’s Community Relations Team, for example, involves students, faculty, and staff by conducting safety workshops and presentations, and integrating citizens into its planning and implementation processes.

  • Northern Kentucky University

8. Amherst, Massachusetts

At the foot of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, Amherst lays claim to three elite institutions of higher education: Amherst College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. In order to better educate its residents about domestic violence, the Amherst Police Department features a step-by-step, bilingual guide to domestic and sexual violence, including a section on how to obtain a restraining order. College is a time when many people experience sexual assault. Amherst College, in particular, has garnered national media attention lately because of the efforts of grassroots organizers to shed light on rape culture and better protect the community.

  • Amherst College
  • Hampshire College
  • University of Massachusetts-Amherst

A photo posted by UMass Amherst (@umass) on

9. Princeton, New Jersey

With historical ties all the way back to the mid-eighteenth century, this leafy, Central New Jersey town is home to Princeton University and the Princeton Theological Seminary. The borough is striving for a future free of environmental health hazards by providing environmentally-friendly composting, yard waste, and recycling curbside pick-up. It is also a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community according to the League of American Bicyclists. Likewise, on campus, Princeton University’s Office of Sustainability features educational resources that help students green their college experience, working to make landscaping and lighting more sustainable.

  • Princeton University
  • Princeton Theological Seminary

10. Pullman, Washington

Known as Three Forks by the Europeans who colonized Eastern Washington, Pullman is now primarily known as the home of Washington State University. Like many institutions of higher education, WSU has experienced its fair share of town-gown tension. To help minimize problems with student-related violence, the police in Pullman created the “Safety Camera Initiative” (SCI) in the historic College Hill neighborhood. So far, these strategic cameras have caught on video a faculty member being attacked, which later led to an arrest. These video cameras stand as a testament to Pullman’s dedication to stopping violent crime.

    • Washington State University

11. Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Lovingly nicknamed “The Town Known ‘Round the World,” Slippery Rock is a borough located north of Pittsburgh. Since 1889, Slippery Rock University has changed and adapted to the surrounding world just as much as the town after which it’s named. The SRU Women’s Center, for example, now partners with the Victim Outreach Intervention Center (VOICe) of Butler County in order to train student advocates who assist victims of sexual assault. Student advocates assess violent incidents, make referrals as appropriate, advocate for victims, and reassess courses of action, providing the community with a refuge from violent and abusive situations.

    • Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

12. Blacksburg, Virginia

After the deadliest school shooting in American history took place on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2007, Blacksburg went from being a celebrant college town to a city in mourning overnight. Blacksburg, however, is typically a peaceful, safety-conscious community. Since the shootings, the Virginia Tech Police Department, for example, has taken active steps to prepare for emergencies like active shooters, terrorist attacks, and bomb threats. Consequently, our ranking reflects the most recent FBI crime data from 2013, in which very little violent crime happened in Blacksburg.

    • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

A photo posted by Munira Sibai (@munirasibai) on

13. Cedar Falls, Iowa

This Blue Zones Community—a nationwide project dedicated to helping people live longer, healthier lives—in rural Iowa is home to the University of Northern Iowa. Part of creating a sense of community well-being and health is safety. On the one hand, UNI has developed Violence Intervention Services, which provides outreach for not only sexual assault, but also harassment, stalking, and physical and emotional abuse. On the other hand, the police department’s Major Incident Response Team protects against non-routine incidents like hostage situations—fostering a feeling of preparedness and safety.

    • University of Northern Iowa

14. Williamsburg, Virginia

A charming, colonial village in Northern Virginia, Williamsburg is also the site of the College of William and Mary. To help facilitate a healthy town-gown relationship, members of the community have developed various programs dedicated to community engagement. On campus, for example, the Office of Community Engagement partners with local organizations to help students step out of themselves and into the world around them. In the broader community, the W-JCC Community Action Agency provides services like “Homeless Assistance” and “Job Readiness Prep” for Williamsburg’s most vulnerable residents.

  • College of William and Mary

15. Northfield, Minnesota

Originally a milling town south of Minneapolis, Northfield has become a town renown for the liberal arts tradition thanks to Carleton College and St. Olaf College. In spite of their reputation as idyllic bastions of higher education, these colleges take a realistic stance on public safety and crime. St. Olaf, for example, emphasizes community policing, while Carleton provides the “Community Concern” form to alert residents of threats to public safety. Similarly, the City of Northfield operates an online clearinghouse for concerned citizens, in which residents can log non-emergency concerns, complaints, and requests to the city police, building inspector, and public works.

  • Carleton College
  • Olaf College

16. Bristol, Rhode Island

On the peninsula dividing Narraganset Bay and Mt. Hope Bay, Bristol is united, in part, by Roger Williams University. From its inception, seafaring and exploration has profoundly marked this town, even as the community continues to explore new technological solutions to crime and public safety. At RWU, the Department of Public Safety manages a live Twitter feed and organizes safety programs like a “Mock Texting and Driving Event” in order to update and educate students, faculty, and staff. Off campus, the city police also manage a live Twitter feed with traffic and accident updates broadcasted in real-time.

    • Roger Williams University

17. Clarion, Pennsylvania

Home to Clarion University of Pennsylvania, this borough north of Pittsburgh is a Blueprint Community that strives to build a healthier, more sustainable community through sound planning and implementation. The Blueprint Community designation is just one of many collaborations that involve the city, nonprofits, and businesses. “Come Together Clarion,” for example, is a community celebration, which brings together borough, county, and university residents. Over its five year history, the celebration has organized 5K runs, community advocacy events, and community quilting projects designed to foster a shared sense of identity and a culture of collaboration.

  • Clarion University of Pennsylvania

18. Irvine, California

Tucked away in Orange County between ocean waves and rolling foothills, Irvine is home to the University of California-Irvine, Irvine Valley College, Concordia University-Irvine, and Brandman University. With drought and fire hazards as constant safety threats, the community has taken steps to mitigate these dangers. The Orange County Fire Association, for example, provides robust fire safety outreach and educational programs for the Irvine community. These efforts are complimented by university initiatives like UC Irvine’s “Fire Prevention Program,” which instructs students, faculty, and staff about key fire safety concepts like areas of refuge.

  • Brandman University
  • Concordia University-Irvine
  • Irvine College
  • University of California-Irvine

A photo posted by UCI UC Irvine (@ucirvine) on

19. Winona, Minnesota

Southwest of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River in picturesque bluff country, Winona is home to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Winona State University, and a branch of Minnesota State College. Community policing efforts by the town police are bolstered by community efforts like Winona Area Crime Stoppers, which runs a tip line and gives cash rewards when criminals are arrested and charged. Meanwhile, on the various campuses in Winona, public safety staff actively collaborate with local police officers, fire fighters, and paramedics to ensure positive town-gown relations and provide top-notch safety enforcement.

  • Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical
  • Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota
  • Winona State University

20. Houghton, Michigan

Houghton is situated on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and boasts an abundance of recreational activities. But white tail deer aren’t the only game in town. Michigan Technological University serves as a bulwark to the community, providing gun safety and outdoor life programs in addition to degrees. The university’s Public Safety and Police Services, for example, run a “Weapon Storage Program” for students, faculty, and staff, in which firearms are stored for free in a secure environment. Guns can then be checked out when community members head to the woods for a hunt or the range for target practice.

  • Michigan Technological University

A photo posted by Michigan Tech (@michigantech) on

21. Marquette, Michigan

Just southeast of Houghton, Marquette is the biggest town in the Upper Peninsula and home to Northern Michigan University. Crime prevention is big in the community. The town police, for example, have created the Youth Services Bureau, which organizes preventative programs like “Youth Violence Prevention.” Likewise, NMU Public Safety features the Crime Prevention Unit, which administers “Rape Aggression Defense” courses, and reaches out to community organizations in Marquette and the greater Upper Peninsula in order to provide their services to the broader, area community.

    • Northern Michigan University

22. Millersville, Pennsylvania

Near Lancaster in Amish country, Millersville was the site of the first teacher’s academy in the state. That academy is now a public institution of higher education—Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Since campus shootings and student-related violence have been on the rise nationwide, the university has taken proactive steps in preventing violence on campus. MU has assembled the Threat Assessment Team, which consists of experts in human resources and employee assistance, law enforcement, university operations, medical knowledge, social equity, and student affairs, to head off safety threats before lives are lost.

    • Millersville University of Pennsylvania

23. Montclair, New Jersey

In between the urban centers of Newark and Paterson, Montclair is home to Montclair State University. Given its proximity to crime-prone areas, one might ask: how does Montclair protect its residents? In order to keep the town healthy and safe, the city government offers community health programs including vaccinations, diet and nutrition programs, and driver safety courses for free. The university, for its part, has organized the Sexual Assault Response Team, which provides education and outreach programs, works to increase reporting incidents and improving access to services, and focuses on comprehensive, victim-centered care.

  • Montclair State University

24. Kennesaw, Georgia

Kennesaw State University and the City of Kennesaw—primarily known for its city ordinance requiring that every head of household own a firearm—both lay northwest of Atlanta. In spite of its firebrand reputation, old school duels and vigilante justice are rare in this sleepy college town. To keep the peace, the KSU Department of Public Safety maintains open lines of communication, freely exchanging information about ongoing criminal investigations with other county law enforcement agencies. In fact, the department has agreements with the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office and the Cobb County Police, in which they receive assistance with high-profile investigations.

  • Kennesaw State University

25. Edwardsville, Illinois

Part of Edwardsville—the LeClaire Historic District—was planned to be an intentional community inspired by the Ethical Culture movement during the late nineteenth century. Now the town is home to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville—one of the largest college campuses in America. Notwithstanding the differences between the ideals of old LeClaire and the contemporary aspirations of SIUE, the university tries to be intentional about safety. SIUE employs technology like the Rave Guardian app, which allows users to set safety timers, message designated “guardians” that can assist in cases of emergencies, and text crime tips to authorities.

  • Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

A photo posted by SIUE (@siuedwardsville) on

26. Hanover, New Hampshire

Along the Vermont border, the historic town of Dartmouth is home to the Ivy League school of the same name. Knowing that even the most ivory of towers is susceptible to the dangers of alcohol abuse, both the city and Dartmouth College have instituted humane disciplinary actions to help limit alcohol-related accidents. The town’s police department, for example, uses the “Alcohol Diversion Referral” system, which encourages assessment and education rather than jail time for underage drinkers. Likewise, the college makes it easy to lend a hand with its “Good Samaritan Clause,” which protects students who assist intoxicated classmates from disciplinary action.

  • Dartmouth College

27. Waltham, Massachusetts

Just west of Boston, this suburb known as “the Watch City” is home to Brandeis University and Bentley University. The community keeps a watchful eye on the medical safety of residents. Waltham, for example, sponsors the Waltham Medical Reserve Corps, which enlists and trains residents in emergency management and disaster medical operations. The town’s efforts are complimented by campus efforts like the Brandeis University Emergency Medical Corps and Life Safety Services at Bentley University—entities that focus on emergency medical services and maintaining a healthy and safe workspace, respectively.

  • Bentley University
  • Brandeis University

A photo posted by Bentley University (@bentleyu) on

28. Medford, Massachusetts

Another Boston suburb known, in part, for Tufts University and its prestigious medical school, Medford uses technology to empower residents and enhance the security of the town. The Medford Police have posted an extensive selection of crime prevention information online, and employ apps like Tip411 and Smart 911 to make crime reporting more convenient. On campus, Tufts has created a network of safety-related technology—Tufts Alert, Tufts Mobile, and the Tufts Threat Assessment and Management Program—that keeps community members informed and safe using email, social media, and online reporting tools like EthicsPoint.

  • Tufts University

29. California, Pennsylvania

A coal mining community south of Pittsburgh, California is also home to one of Pennsylvania’s public institutions of higher education—California University of Pennsylvania. The university community has taken a strong stance against violence. The Student Sexual Assault Response Team (SSART), for example, trains student volunteers and provides a dedicated phone line that is used to help victims through the legal and emotional processes associated with sexual violence. In addition, the university is home to the END V (Violence) Center, which offers counseling and trainings that center on violence prevention and resolution.

  • California University of Pennsylvania

30. Orono, Maine

North of Bangor and named in honor of Chief Joseph Orono of the Penobscot Nation, Orono lays claim to the University of Maine—the state’s flagship public university. The town and the university, in fact, participate as equal partners in a number of town-gown initiatives. Collaborative service arrangements include fire safety, wastewater collection and treatment, and recreational trail management. Not only that, but departments at the university are encouraged to collaborate on town-related research projects. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, for instance, recently teamed up with the city in order to evaluate town infrastructure.

  • University of Maine

31. Athens, Ohio

Athens is home to Ohio University—the first public institution of higher learning in the then Northwest Territory. Following the example of its ancient Greek counterpart, the Athens Police espouse a remarkably philosophical credo: “Perhaps the biggest responsibility of any law enforcement officer is to recognize that his or her authority is not derived by a set of laws and ordinances, or an oath of office, but is granted to them from the very community they serve.” The university police, for its part, have put these theoretical concepts into practice with programs like Crime Prevention through Environmental Design and active shooter response training.

    • Ohio University

32. Maryville, Missouri

South of the Iowa border, Maryville is the leafy home of the Missouri State Arboretum situated on the Northwest Missouri State University campus. Apart from its beautiful setting, the city has developed an integrated Public Safety Department. The department provides community members with student-friendly, online documents like “How to Party Safe.” It’s no secret that alcohol abuse and sexual assault are two of the biggest safety issues on college campuses today. With the latter issue in mind, Wellness Services at NMSU has developed the Lighthouse Project—a resource dedicated to assisting victims of sexual assault.

  • Northwest Missouri State University

33. Logan, Utah

This quiet college town surrounded by snow-topped mountains is home to Utah State University. The city and the university both stress the importance of environmentally-friendly and cost-effective community development. The City of Logan is currently developing a bicycle and pedestrian master plan with the input of concerned community members. On campus, USU has instituted the “Aggie Blue Bikes” program, which offers free bike rentals, maintenance tutorials, and educational outreach. In Logan, a healthier, more sustainable community provides a safer, more stable environment for everybody.

    • Utah State University

34. Orange, California

Located in Orange County just southeast of Anaheim, Orange is “A Slice of Old Town Charm” that also serves as fertile ground for Chapman University and Santiago Canyon College. In order to protect its charm from crime, the town has implemented the i-Watch system, which allows law enforcement to email notifications like public service announcements and crime alerts to residents. The Department of Public Safety at Chapman University has also tried its hand at public service announcements, producing “Operation: Get Safe,” an informative safety video for college freshmen with a dollop of old Hollywood charm.

  • Chapman University
  • Santiago Canyon College

35. San Marcos, California

North of San Diego, San Marcos enjoyed large growth during the last half of the twentieth century, including two public institutions of higher education: California State University-San Marcos and Palomar College. In order to smoothly facilitate the transition from rural outpost to suburban college town, the City of San Marcos has published the online resource “Good Neighbor Guidelines,” which specifically addresses town-gown relationships. CSUSM has also put community education at the center of its safety policy, working with the Preventing Rape by Intoxication through Community Education (P.R.I.C.E.) Coalition and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to stop rape.

  • California State University-San Marcos
  • Palomar College
  • University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences- San Marcos

36. Westfield, Massachusetts

Known as “Whip City” for its ties to the buggy whip industry, Westfield is also known as the home of Westfield State University. These days, the community works hard to connect its residents through the Internet instead of via horse drawn vehicles. The city, for example, is piloting public Wi-Fi in its downtown area to facilitate commerce and safety. Similarly, at WSU, the Emergency Response Team is trying to enhance efficiency and communication during emergencies that affect the community. Recently, the team provided information and resources during the 2009 H1N1 Flu Pandemic and in preparation for the landing of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

  • Westfield State University

37. West Lafayette, Indiana

One of the most densely populated cities in America, the city limits of West Lafayette include the main campus of Purdue University. In order to mediate disputes around shared space in a small geographical area, the city features a web resource page for Purdue Students with renting, parking, ticket payment, recycling, neighborhood associations, and community development information. In addition, the university’s Office of Community Relations features initiatives like reading programs in local schools and the “Good to Great” program, which works to ensure a place in the community for all people, including West Lafayette’s most vulnerable residents.

    • Purdue University

38. East Lansing, Michigan

Smack dab in the middle of Michigan and just east of the state capital, East Lansing is also home to Michigan State University. The East Lansing Police Department has developed student-centered resources like safety tips on how to survive an active shooter and their “Party Registration Form,” which demonstrates intent to host a responsible party. At MSU, police-student relations also takes priority. The Police Oversight Committee, for example, gives community members a place to air their grievances regarding the MSUPD, helping to resolve any police-related disputes and provide the community with more responsible law enforcement.

  • Michigan State University

39. Whitewater, Wisconsin

In between Madison and Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater calls the rural hamlet of Whitewater home. As the names would indicate, the town and the university are fairly intertwined. The annual Freeze Fest, for example, is hosted by the city, the university, and the Special Olympics, and feature a polar plunge and chili cook-off that brings both town and gown together in a spirit of fun and unity. In addition, the university hosts a comprehensive, new-student presentation that focuses on being a good neighbor to long-term residents and discouraging alcohol abuse by students both on and off campus.

  • University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

40. Boone, North Carolina

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Great Smoky Mountains National Park and named after explorer Daniel Boone, Boone is also home to Appalachian State University. The town and the university collaborate heavily to nurture the arts and culture, creating a sense of community that contributes to the overall safety of Boone. The town’s Cultural Resources Department, for example, strives to nurture history and the arts, and drive the local economy through tourism. Likewise, in collaboration with ASU, An Appalachian Summer Festival is one of the nation’s largest regional arts festivals and is presented by the Office of Arts and Cultural Programs.

  • Appalachian State University

41. Fairfield, Connecticut

A suburban town located along the Gold Coast of Connecticut, Fairfield also is the home of Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University. The community of Fairfield has put a premium on preparation. The Fairfield Citizen Corps Council, for example, has formed the Fairfield Community Emergency Response Team, which trains—according to FEMA guidelines—a group of volunteers who serve the community during major emergencies or disasters. On campus, Fairfield University’s Emergency Notification System (StagAlert) simultaneously distributes e-mails, text messages, and voice calls during emergencies—echoing the city’s dedication to emergency preparedness.

  • Fairfield University
  • Sacred Heart University

A photo posted by @sacredheartuniversity on

42. Edmond, Oklahoma

North of Oklahoma City, Edmond is a highly desirable place to live according to various national publications, and is home to University of Central Oklahoma. The suburban town is putting its money where its mouth is by planning and constructing a new City Public Safety Center, which will house the police department, Police Support Ancillary Facility, and the Public Safety Communications Department. This facility will also provide a much needed pedestrian connection between the UCO campus and downtown. To get students downtown safely, UCO offers the “SafeWalk” program, which helps students feel comfortable as they move around after hours.

  • University of Central Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma Christian University

43. New Rochelle, New York

Just outside of New York City and originally colonized by French Huguenot refugees, New Rochelle is home to the College of New Rochelle and Iona College. Community safety is still a concern for the town, with the Police and Community Together Unit (P.A.C.T.)—a conglomeration of youth, beat, and housing officers—working to improve police-community relations through problem-oriented policing. At the College of New Rochelle, a healthy sense of community also figures into safety and security. By not subcontracting campus security services, the college fosters healthy connections between members of the community and their trained, fully licensed officers.

  • College of New Rochelle
  • Iona College

44. Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Part of Mount Pleasant is located on the Isabella Indian Reservation, and is home to Central Michigan University, Mid Michigan Community College, and Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College. The town’s Division of Public Safety recognizes the complexity of maintaining safety when multiple jurisdictions and institutions are involved. The Neighborhood Resource Unity, for example, forms community partnerships that include regular meetings with and outreach to the rental community, CMU, and MMCC. Similarly, the CMUPD participates in cooperative efforts with local law enforcement agencies like the Mount Pleasant Police and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Police.

  • Central Michigan University
  • Mid Michigan Community College
  • Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College

45. Rohnert Park, California

North of San Francisco in between Petaluma and Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park is home to Sonoma State University. The community is not only well educated, but tries to be smart about its safety and security. One city program in particular—Rohnert Park on Watch—compiles locations in the town with surveillance video in order to better solve crimes and facilitate collaboration between community members and the local police. At Sonoma State, the Physical Security Assessment program helps university employees identify practices in their workplaces that place information, data, and other state or personal property at risk.

    • Sonoma State University

46. Big Rapids, Michigan

North of Grand Rapids near the Manistee National Forest, Big Rapids is not only home to great aquatic adventure, but also Ferris State University. Connections between the town and the university are so intertwined that even the Director of Public Safety graduated from FSU. In fact, the university makes a concerted effort to partner with the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, the Mecosta County Sheriff’s Department, and the Michigan State Police in order to maximize resources and smooth over any town-gown conflict. On top of that, FSU uses technology like “Bulldogs Text Tip” to monitor crime and make its campus more secure.

  • Ferris State University

47. Cortland, New York

Roughly halfway between Ithaca and Syracuse in the Finger Lakes region, Cortland pays tribute to Ronnie James Dio—legendary rock singer of Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and Dio fame—during Dio Day on the State University of New York at Cortland campus. Lest you think that the residents of Cortland party too hard, the university police offer the “Fatal Vision Program” as an educational initiative catered to the campus community. The program demonstrates how quickly impairment can turn into potentially devastating consequences for anyone who drives under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, keeping Cortland safe and helping its residents live to rock another day.

    • State University of New York at Cortland

A photo posted by SUNY Cortland (@sunycortland) on

48. River Falls, Wisconsin

Named after rapids on the Kinnickinnic River, River Falls boasts an eponymous public university: University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The town and its residents emphasize a holistic approach to safety, in which the arts and culture contribute to the overall well-being of the area. While the nonprofit Community Arts Base facilitates the arts in River Falls, The University of Wisconsin-River Falls serves as a cultural hub for the region, offering exceptional academic programs in the arts as well as performances and exhibits open to the community. As residents of the town know, these efforts contribute to the overall well-being of the town and neighboring communities.

  • University of Wisconsin-River Falls

A photo posted by UW-River Falls (@uwriverfalls) on

49. Laramie, Wyoming

Laramie is in southeastern Wyoming between the Snowy and Laramie mountains, and is home to the University of Wyoming and WyoTech. As is the case with most college towns, alcohol abuse can be a huge threat to community safety. At UW, for example, AWARE (Alcohol, Wellness, Alternatives, Research, and Education) coordinates the A-Team—a campus-community coalition that works to develop, recommend, and assess best practices in policy, prevention, intervention, and enforcement in relation to alcohol abuse. In fact, the Laramie Police Department’s “Alcohol Enforcement Program” is a member of the team, demonstrating Laramie’s collaborative commitment to safety.

  • University of Wyoming
  •  WyoTech

50. South Orange, New Jersey

A suburban township near New York City, South Orange is also home to Seton Hall University. In South Orange, the community takes an active role in educating the public about sexual assault and domestic violence. The police department’s Domestic Violence Response Team, for example, features specially trained volunteers who assist victims of sexual assault by providing them with support and information at the police station. On the Seton Hall campus, the Sexual Assault and Violence Education team is a group of students, staff, and faculty who educate others about intimate partner violence and its effect on individuals and the community.

  • Seton Hall University

How We Rank the College Towns

Using the most recent FBI crime statistics from 2013, SafeWise calculated the total number of crimes committed in each American town with at least one academic institution of higher education. We then weighted those numbers in relation to population statistics and other important factors. Finally, SafeWise researched relevant safety, health, and educational programs that help make each “Safest College Town” safer and more secure.

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Mike Strayer

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