College is really the first true test parents face that measures their level of success in regard to their child-rearing efforts. We wonder if we have nurtured common sense and problem-solving skills within our children, or if we have inadequately prepared them for those sorts that look for an easy target. As my first child heads off to college, I find myself sharing college safety tips I’ve learned from what I’ve seen in having a career in law enforcement. My motherly advice is tainted by years of seeing the worst in humanity. I recognize, however, that there is a delicate balance between developing safety-conscious children versus neurotic ones.
College campuses have crime that is much different from that of the general population. I spoke to several campus police chiefs to determine how best to prepare my daughter for college. For the most part, the reported crimes on campus were crimes against property (theft, vandalism, ordinance violations, etc.). When I asked about crimes against people, the resounding theme was that when it did occur it involved one common factor: alcohol.
Simply telling our children “don’t drink” won’t work. We must explain the dangers and discuss the role alcohol plays in inviting it. Below are six college safety tips I’m giving my daughter as she goes to college.
Be Alert At All Times
I went to a dozen college tours and saw the same thing at every school. Students with their heads buried in books and laptops, all donning headphones, and incessant texting. These behaviors might look cool but they invite crime. Encourage students to look around once in a while, or keep one earbud off the ear. Their ability to scan the environment for potential threats will allow them time to react should one present itself.
I’m sure I would be unsuccessful in telling my daughter “Don’t drink.” But just like I would tell her not to take candy from strangers when she was little, I hope she doesn’t take drinks from them. If she does, she needs to know the origin of that beverage and decline drinks that are suspect. Sexual assault is the most prevalent violent crime perpetrated on college campuses, with an estimation that as many as one out of every five female students are victimized while attending college.
Use the Buddy System
Criminals make split-second assessments of the potential resistance they are going to face when choosing their victims. They know that their chances of success are best one-on-one. Walking with just one additional person decreases victimization by 70 percent, and 90 percent with two!
Communicate Your Plans
Let people know where you are going, with whom, and when you’ll be back. A simple text to a roommate, friend, or family member, or even a note in your dorm room, can be the catalyst to summon help if trouble presents itself. Even a photo of yourself wearing the outfit you’re going out in can be incredibly helpful. The successful outcome of any criminal investigation requires prompt police reporting. Those who make communication a habit are more likely to reap the benefits of police intervention when something goes awry.
Plan Your Own Transportation
Right away, young adults learn how quickly “designated drivers” start drinking, or how quickly “friends” abandon those they transported. These situations force others into taking rides from strangers or walking home alone, both of which increase the risk of victimization. They have to have their own transportation plan. Even rideshare services aren’t always dependable. Many Uber and Lyft drivers have been cited in sexual assault claims.
Trust Your Instincts
Human beings are naturally trusting, but blind trust is dangerous. Countless criminal investigations, especially those involving sexual assault, confirmed for me one thing—people should trust their instincts. We raise our children to be polite and kind to others because we are there to protect them. Rarely do we tell our kids leaving home that those rules no longer apply. They must trust the internal alarms designed to ensure survival. For parents, sending children to college is scary. We really don’t know if we have adequately prepared them for life. We realize we can no longer shield them from reality. Inevitably, when bad things happen, all we can do is hope they’ll use good judgment, heed our recommendations and walk away unscathed.
These college safety tips may seem pretty basic, but an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.