In the last two decades, a scrutinizing eye has been turned to the important issue of safety on college campuses. From tragic events such as the Virginia Tech shooting which claimed 32 lives to reports that up to 25% of female college students report being raped at some point during their time at an institute of higher education – it’s no wonder young adults and their parents are listing safety along with class size, location, cost, and ranking when it comes to important factors when choosing a college.
Since the Clery Act of 1998, colleges have been required to publish annual crime statistics as readily as they publish their graduation rates and cost of tuition. These crime statistics help parents and students understand the likelihood of being a victim of violence on different college campuses, as well as best practices for keeping themselves safe.
It’s important to note however, that in general college campuses have less violent crimes than cities and towns (except rape which could be more likely to occur on college campus for some women and men because of the drinking, partying, and “hook-up” culture among college students). Of the 19.7 million college students spread across 4,200 campuses in America – there are on average only about 20 homicides each year. To put this in perspective: each year in America there are about 16,000 homicides. Even the rate of suicides is lower among college students than their 18-24 year old non-student peers.
It should also be noted that college campus crime and violence statistics are never going to be completely accurate. Studies shows up to 35% of crimes on campus go unreported and some crimes are inaccurately reported because of malice or confusion on the part of the alleged victim. However, as the saying goes, safety first – so here are some things to look for when choosing a college to ensure a fun and safe four years.
What Prospective Students Should Look for When It Comes to College Safety
Prospective college students and their parents would be naïve to expect to find a college campus completely devoid of crime. They can, however, search through colleges based on their safety ratings in terms of crimes committed per student enrolled, local newspaper articles describing how the college has dealt with previous crimes and violence acts, and what mental health and safety resources are available for students. Most college campuses these days offer a variety of safety resources to student including:
- 24 hour psychiatric services
- Crisis hot lines
- Mental health offices for regular counseling
- Security officers on campus at all times
- Shuttles for students traveling across campus at night or a group-walking service that summons a pre-approved person to walk with a student across campus
- Self-defense classes
- Surveillance systems, license-plate recognition, and other technology designed to deter violence through accountability
- Email and text message alert systems in the event of a campus-wide threat
Prospective students may not think they will ever need to drop in for a counseling session when they first graduate high school, but in truth, college is a very overwhelming experience for many people (20% of college student males and 35% of females report feeling overwhelmed in their first year). Colleges set up to help all students navigate their ever-changing environment throughout their years studying are more likely to find help for students prone to acts of violence or crime, as well as those who just need a helping hand.
Also, prospective students can check out each college’s safety mission to see how the college or university plans on continuing to promote safety and well-being to its students in future years..
A safe environment is the cornerstone of a high-quality education. Prospective students should take the time to research the safety of the schools they want to attend as well as educate themselves on how to be safe when they get to campus
The Safest Campuses:
Columbus State Community College
Columbus State Community College is committed to protecting faculty, staff and students at its campuses throughout Ohio. The Department of Public Safety, recognized as one of the best campus security units in the state, offers many services to ensure the safety of those on campus. The campus police force offers assistance with vehicle lockouts, provides security escorts to anyone on campus, requires use of ID cards when wanting access to campus activities and services, uses text messaging to alert staff and students of emergency situations and requires students needing after hours access to classrooms to have a faculty member present.
East Central University
East Central University in Oklahoma has a police department capable of and dedicated to serving those who walk the campus. The department offers a variety of services to protect and serve students and staff. These include uniformed officers available 24 hours per day, every day of the week. Both car and foot patrols are conducted to ensure complete safety on campus, and a no-tolerance alcohol and drug policy is strictly enforced. Safety seminars and programs on rape, theft, self-defense and safety precautions are presented several times per year on campus to any student, student group or employee of the school.
Erskine College in South Carolina provides a safe and secure campus. Chief Randy Estep and his force provide many services to ensure order is kept, including the Escort Across Campus Program available from sundown to sunrise. Uniformed officers will escort anyone needing assistance anywhere on campus. Erskine also has a Victim Assistance Program for anyone who does fall victim to a crime. The office will assist with explaining the legal process, counseling and support. Officers also work with the Office of Student Services regarding missing persons. All reports are followed up with an ongoing investigation, ensuring all facts are uncovered.
Kansas State University
Kansas State University is a school whose focus is the safety of the campus grounds. The police department offers a Silent Witness program, enabling those who witness a crime to report it anonymously online through an encrypted server. The school also offers an after-hours escort with an officer, bike safety and housing safety officers and after-hours security of campus buildings. Campus groups wishing to learn more about such topics as crime prevention or drug awareness can contact the department to have an officer conduct a seminar, and the department also keeps a registry of sex offenders in the local area.
Louisiana State University – Eunice
Louisiana State University-Eunice has some great programs in place to ensure the safety of those on campus. One of the best is the emergency alert system to notify students, staff and faculty of any impending emergencies including crimes or natural disasters. All campus personnel and students are automatically enrolled in the program, and are able to receive messages via text, e-mail and voice. This is also counted on in the event of a large-scale communication outage. If this happens, this system will be used as a primary means to provide information to the entire campus, keeping everyone informed and safe.
Arkansas State University
Arkansas State University has a police department with an open-door philosophy to the public and campus community. The department keeps an activity log of all crimes and incidents, making it available to public inspection at any time. Free courses in Rape Aggression Defense are offered to all female students, staff and faculty to teach them self-defense tactics to protect against sexual predators. An Active Shooter Guide is also available from the department to help those on campus prevent and prepare for an armed gunman on campus grounds. The video is available for viewing by anyone on the police department’s website.
Marshall University in West Virginia has an Office of Public Safety that is second to none. A variety of services are offered to help protect those on campus, including bike patrols and after-hours escorts by campus police officers to any location on campus. Help phones are located at strategic points on campus to allow those needing assistance to have direct contact with the police department. The Silent Witness program is available to those who witness a crime and wish to report it anonymously. Officers are also available to provide security to on-campus events such as athletic events or other outings.
Millersville University in Pennsylvania is a proactive school when it comes to campus security. The police department has received a score of 93 out of 100 from the campus security website StateUniversity.com, and is also determined that people can call for assistance from almost anywhere on campus. The university has 29 emergency call boxes on campus, also known as “Blue Light” phones. The police offer seminars on how to survive an active shooter incident, and also has a threat assessment team on stand-by at all times to assist with any suddenly dangerous situations on campus such as shooters or bombs.
Northeast State Community College in Tennessee provides everyone on campus a safe and secure learning environment. The campus police department issues crime alerts and bulletins through several means including online, memorandums, flyers and the campus newsletter. They also offer escorts to and from vehicles and buildings after dark, helping those who feel uncomfortable by themselves. A registry of local sex offenders is also kept by the department, and any offender who enrolls as a student, gains employment at the school or volunteers is required to fill out an information form and have it on file with the campus police department.
Oakton Community College
Oakton Community College in Illinois cares about the people on campus, and it shows in the security measures taken. Officers patrol day and night by foot, bicycle, car and Segway and offer escorts to parking lots after dark for those who prefer some added security to their car. Officers have full authority to investigate any criminal complaints and accidents, and are equipped with and trained in the use of emergency equipment like defibrillators and other first-aid equipment. Sex offenders are also tracked closely by the department, allowing them to be aware of any who become students or employees on campus.
Southeast Missouri State University
Southeast Missouri State University is dedicated to public safety. The university police department provides a variety of services to students and staff. Personal protection equipment including emergency call boxes and closed circuit television are used throughout campus. Seminars given by campus police officers are offered to individuals and campus groups. Topics include sexual assault, armed robbery, vandalism and drug usage. An outdoor siren system is also maintained and used by the public safety office in the event of severe weather or building evacuations. A registered sex offender list is also kept by the department to keep up with local offenders.
University of Houston Clear Lake
University of Houston Clear Lake has a public safety department offering various services to improve the safety of the campus and those on the grounds. These include an emergency hotline, emergency call boxes, lost and found, safety transportation service and vehicle assistance. The hotline uses a recorded message to convey emergency information regarding weather, buildings and other situations. Call boxes are scattered throughout campus parking lots, letting people have direct contact with police if needed. Safety transportation is provided to students, staff and faculty after dark, using foot and car patrol to get people safely from one place to another.
University of Northern Iowa
University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls provides a number of services to ensure the safety of everyone. The police department offers safety escorts at all hours and days of the week. Anyone on campus can request an escort to and from any residence hall or university building with an officer. Officers assisting with this do so on foot, bicycle or patrol car. Public safety phones are available in parking lots, and automatic defibrillators are available for use in emergencies. The silent witness program lets people report crimes online without revealing their identity, and crime prevention seminars are also offered.
Volunteer State Community College
Volunteer State Community College in Tennessee offers a police department that creates a safe and friendly learning environment. The department provides crime prevention seminars on rape awareness, self-defense, property protection and more. An escort service is available to and from any place on campus, no matter the time of day or night. Motorist assistance is given to those who have locked themselves out of their vehicles, have flat tires or dead batteries. Brochures and pamphlets are distributed on topics like textbook theft, vandalism and obscene phone calls. Text message alerts are also used to alert those on campus to emergencies.
CUNY Hunter College
CUNY Hunter College is a school deeply committed to providing top-notch security to the campus surroundings. The public safety department offers numerous crime prevention seminars on dorm safety, subway safety, internet safety and safe ways to go to clubs. Identification cards are required to be used by everyone on campus to enter buildings and college activities. Public safety warnings are sent out through text messaging and voice alerts. Sex offenders are kept on file in the department, and alcohol and drug laws are strictly enforced. Stalking both physically and online is prohibited, and officers diligently investigate each of these complaints.
University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi Main Campus offers a number of services to make those on campus feel safe. Patrol services include foot, auto, bicycle and motorcycle to ensure complete coverage of the campus. The school also has a canine unit within its police department, somewhat unusual for a college police department. The dog is trained in narcotics detection, tracking and suspect apprehension. Crime prevention seminars on rape and workplace violence are also offered, and the department coordinates the student services escort service. By students being properly trained, officers are able to devote most of their time to handling more important matters.
University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder offers stunning scenery and a public safety department skilled in providing security. Access to university buildings is carefully monitored by police, with everyone needing access being required to show proper identification. To make sure pedestrians are safe on campus, the department has installed high-intensity activated crosswalks throughout campus. A crime victim rights office is also operated by the campus police, helping victims of crimes understand their rights and responsibilities. The campus is well-lit and has emergency phones across campus, letting those walking to cars and classes feel safer by being in close contact with police.
Loyola University in Chicago offers highly-skilled security and safety to those on campus. Emergency phones are available across campus, letting people have direct contact with emergency personnel. Police are skilled in handling various dangerous situations including active shooters, bomb threats, medical emergencies and suspicious mail and packages. Crime prevention seminars are offered on various topics including theft prevention, sexual assault, date rape, home and fire safety. Bicycle patrols keep the campus safe, while residence halls have safety monitors at front entrances or central access points in buildings. Campus bulletin boards are in high-traffic areas and report the latest crime information.
Missouri University of Science & Technology
Missouri University of Science and Technology provides those studying high-tech fields a safe and secure environment. The school’s police department offers a number of programs and services to students and staff. Crime prevention seminars are offered on many topics including rape defense, cpr and first aid, active shooter response and self-defense. The department also offers property engraving to campus members free of charge. Police will bring the engraver to larger living areas such as dorms for group use. Personal security escorts are available 24/7 by police to people walking to and from vehicles and buildings, helping them feel safer.
New York Institute of Technology – Old Westbury
New York Institute of Technology–Old Westbury is determined to maintain a safe and secure learning environment. The Office of Campus Security provides security officers trained in the latest techniques of crime prevention, including fires, bomb threats and medical emergencies. Security is provided campus-wide year-round, with crime prevention seminars taught to staff and students on a regular basis. Topics of these seminars include subway safety, date rape, theft prevention and much more. The campus security office also coordinates all responses to emergencies including chemical spills, fires and other accidents. Security personnel are trained to take all threats seriously and respond appropriately.
Liberty University in Virginia provides people an opportunity to study in a safe environment. The campus police provide services designed to make the campus safe. Basic self-defense classes for women are offered several times per year, giving female staff and students the chance to learn self-defense techniques. Classes require twelve hours of participation, which is time well-spent should an attack happen. A campus alert system is in place, giving people the chance to find out in advance of potential danger or accidents. Users can choose what type of device can receive the messages, and can choose what messages to receive.
Clayton State University
Clayton State University in Georgia provides an environment where students and staff can feel safe. Crime prevention programs are designed to address specific issues on campus including date rape and vandalism. The Campus Watch program was created to foster a proactive approach to crime prevention, getting everyone involved in the quest for a crime-free campus. Officers patrol the campus on foot, bicycle and car to ensure complete coverage. Officers undergo continuous firearms and investigative training to maintain certification in these areas, and are regularly engaged in public relations to advise staff and students on various campus rules, regulations and laws.
Cardinal Stritch University
Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin promotes an environment of safe learning for all on campus. The Department of Security operates 24/7, providing students and staff with a variety of services. A crisis communication plan is in place to ensure everyone on campus is notified of impending emergencies in a timely manner. All crimes reported to the office are investigated thoroughly by officers, and the campus security director attends monthly meetings with local law enforcement officers to discuss area crime and prevention techniques. While the officers cannot make arrests, they work with local police departments to keep the campus safe.