AOL recently released a comprehensive list of the 25 most dangerous college campuses in America. With a number of major universities making national headlines in the last several months for safety issues on campus, this seems especially relevant to students attending or looking to attend a university. The report details the 25 schools with the highest rate of criminal offenses committed relative to the student body size.

There were a few prerequisites: the schools that were included in the analysis were required to be 4-year universities with at least 1000 students. Statistics gathered by the Office of Postsecondary Education were used to calculate these ratings based on the number of violent and nonviolent crimes reported to campus security authorities and/or local law enforcement agencies during the years 2011-2013.

Violent and Nonviolent Crimes

The worst performer, Benedict College, reported an average of 152 incidents per year between 2011 and 2013. This sounds discouraging; however, a significant number of incidents reported were nonviolent. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nonviolent crimes are defined as offenses which do not involve a threat of harm or an actual attack upon a person. This can refer to anything from a drug offense, to burglary or larceny. Violent crimes are generally more serious; incidents where violence is used or a perpetrator uses force against a victim. Common examples include murder, assault, and sex offenses.

As many high school students begin the process of narrowing down potential schools, they will likely take into account the campus size, the location, and perhaps the academic ranking of the university. An important factor to add to this list will be campus safety. In addition to considering what safety programs the schools have in place, this will also mean considering what the student can do to minimize their own risk.

Helping Prevent Burglaries and Other Crimes

The life of a student is full of worries – midterms, a part time job, an active social life, and their own safety. It’s important to be aware of what you can do for yourself to stay safe. Below is a list of tips and tricks to help any student keep themselves safe from common crimes on college campuses.

1. Always lock your door.

A very simple way to protect your personal belongings while living on a college campus is to lock your door every time you leave your dorm room or apartment. In fact, even locking the door while you’re at home is a good idea. Having a locked door is your first line of defense against any intruder attempting to get in. If you live in a dorm, make sure the main doors aren’t propped open. It’s helpful if your campus has a key card or security badge system throughout the dormitories – consider looking into this before you make your final choice on where to attend and where to live.

2. Never leave your belongings unattended.

Even if you’re in the library and need to run to the restroom or need another cup of coffee, don’t leave your laptop or other items unattended. If you are running back inside your apartment, lock up your bike. If it’s an item you would not leave sitting on a park bench, don’t leave it on a library table, by the doorway of a classroom, or anywhere else. Hampshire University offers a service at their campus police office for engraving personal items that students are particularly worried about. Consider doing something like this in order to help track down your items if they are ever lost or stolen.

3. Extra security measures for your dorm or apartment.

If you are worried about a break in or a burglary, think about adding a security monitoring system to your dorm or apartment. Many security systems install using adhesive-backed sensors and wireless communication, so you won’t damage your living space. There are a number of simple and easy solutions on the market that a student could use. Treat your college housing like you would any other residence and secure it with alarm systems and additional hardware.

4. Don’t walk alone on campus at night.

If you’re leaving the library late at night, you don’t want to be alone. Many campuses have security guards who will come and walk you back to your dorm if your friends aren’t around to walk with you. Grinnell College recommends that their students recognize and know where the emergency blue-light phones are located throughout campus in case of an emergency. It’s recommended that you avoid talking on the phone while you’re walking alone, as it can distract you and provide a false sense of security. Carrying pepper spray or other deterrents is a good idea, as is attending self-defense training.

5. Don’t attract attention to yourself or your things.

You’re probably planning on arriving on campus with your brand new computer, and that big TV your parents gave you. There’s no reason not to enjoy your electronics, your nice clothes, or anything else that’s important to you. But there’s also no reason to call attention to your dorm room or apartment that’s filled with all of this great stuff. Make sure everyone who enters your living area is known to you personally or is with someone you trust. College campuses have many people passing through, and you won’t recognize everyone, so never make yourself a conspicuous target to a stranger.

6. Secure your valuables within your dorm room.

Just because your dorm has a locking door doesn’t mean everything inside is safe. Consider getting a lockbox or mini safe to store cash, electronics, and jewelry to help ensure your prized possessions are safe at all times.

Choosing a college to attend is an involved process and safety should certainly be a factor in any student’s final decision. No matter where you go, or what online list the school has made it onto, you should do your part to keep yourself and your belongings safe.

Image: Ulrich Lange; CC 3.0

Written by Alyssa Baker

Alyssa Baker is a writer and a resident security expert for the SafeWise team. She enjoys writing about home automation and home security gadgets, and drinks a lot of coffee in her spare time. Learn more

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