College Student Safety on Campus: Safety Apps for College Students
According to the Clery Act, all institutions of higher education that participate in the federal student financial aid program are required to disclose information about crime on their campuses and in the surrounding communities.
Based on the most recent data available in the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security Survey, in 2015, college campuses reported more than 36,000 criminal offenses. College student safety is a big concern — not just for the students themselves and their parents, but for faculty and staff members, as well.
As a current student or parent of a college student, you have access to the most up-to-date crime statistics through the U.S. Department of Education. They’ve provided an online tool to give students and parents the opportunity to search crime data for a specific school. If you are still deciding where to enroll, you can compare crime statistics for your top choices on this website as well.
Chances are, regardless of what school someone chooses to attend, there will be instances of crime. Crime statistics can be daunting, especially when they are specific to the school that you, or your son or daughter, will be attending. What types of crime are most common on campuses and in the surrounding communities? What can you do to protect yourself or your child?
Prevention is the best defense against crimes on college campuses. To take steps toward prevention, you have to be educated on the risks you’re facing and the tools available to help you.
Most Common Crimes on Campus
No one likes to think about the crime that happens on and around college campuses, but students should be aware of the most prevalent crimes to learn how to prevent them and defend against them. While some of these terms may seem self-explanatory, there are some that are confused or used incorrectly.
In an attempt to provide accurate information, we’ve taken the list of the most common college campus crimes from the U.S. Department of Education, defined them and have given some insight to each below.
Burglary is when someone unlawfully enters a structure — like a dorm room or apartment — to commit theft or a felony. You could be a victim of burglary and not even be there to witness it. To help protect yourself against burglary, make sure you and your roommates lock the doors.
It’s easy, especially in dorms, to get in the habit of leaving your door unlocked — or even open to the hallway — but a burglar could be someone living next door or down the hall. A lockbox for valuables might be a good idea while you live in dorms.
Robbery is when someone takes, or tries to take, something that has value from someone using intimidation, force or threat. Unlike burglary, if you’re a victim of robbery, you must be present, as the predator must use fear or physical force against you. Robbery can happen anywhere — walking home from a night class or a party.
To protect yourself from robbery, there are several steps you can take, which we’ve outlined in our tools for college student safety section below.
- Sexual Assault
Both fondling and rape are mentioned as two of the most common crimes reported on college campuses — and both fall under the definition of sexual assault. Fondling or groping is the touching of another person’s genitalia without their consent. Sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration that occurs without the consent of the victim is deemed rape.
The risk of sexual violence is especially elevated for female college students, ages 18-24, who are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women in general.
In addition to the steps we’ve outlined in our tools for college student safety section below, to protect yourself against sexual assault, use the buddy system to make sure you are never walking alone. If a friend isn’t available, call your campus law enforcement to accompany you.
Always open your own drinks at parties, or, better yet, bring your own drinks to ensure no one slips anything into your drink, preventing you from physically stopping an assault if it starts.
The good news is, schools are also working toward prevention of sexual assault — 86 percent of campus law enforcement have a staff member dedicated to rape prevention programming.
- Motor Vehicle Theft
When you think about all the cars that are parked on a college campus, it’s easy to see why motor vehicle theft is one of the most common crimes on college campuses. This includes attempted theft, as well. While there’s a chance you could be present for the theft of your car, it’s more likely to occur when you aren’t around.
In addition to taking advantage of the tools we’ve outlined in our tools for college student safety section, there are a few additional steps you can take to prevent motor vehicle theft.
First, always lock your car doors. This may seem like a no-brainer, but too often students get in the habit of not locking doors for a quick trip inside, or they assume cars are safe on campus and leave them unlocked. It takes more effort to break a window or pick a lock — a locked car door could make the difference between a thief targeting your car or the one next to it.
Thieves can pick locks and break windows, so, while locking car doors is a key step to take, it’s not the only step. Don’t leave valuables in the car. If you must, hide them in a locked glove compartment or the trunk. On campus, you’ll likely be parking your car overnight — sometimes for an extended period — so park in well-lit areas.
- Aggravated Assault
A person is guilty of aggravated assault if he or she seriously injures, or tries to seriously injure, another person. It could be with or without a weapon, and may or may not be paired with an intent to rob, rape or even kill.
Stick to the buddy system when on campus, and, if you need to go somewhere alone, make sure someone knows where you are and when to expect you to return. Be alert and aware of your surroundings — avoid walking around with earbuds or with your head distracted by checking your cellphone.
When you approach the entrance of a building, get your keys out ahead of time, rather than as you walk or rummage through your bag to find them. Always err on the side of caution — if you see someone you don’t know waiting to get into a dorm or other campus building, don’t let them in. Call security or police once you are in a safe place.
Tools for College Student Safety
The thought of being a victim of any of these crimes is scary, but there are a variety of steps you can take to promote safety on campus — whether you’re a student, parent or a faculty/staff member. Be aware of these options, and choose a few tools that work best for you.
Advancements in technology offer a variety of unique tools that can have a significant impact on safety, but there’s always room for the traditional tools — a combination of both is best to ensure safety on campus.
- College Student Safety Apps
As technology continues to advance, there’s a growing number of college student safety apps available for students to download. While there are a variety of personal safety apps that can serve as a college student panic button to scare a predator away, the best apps for college students’ safety are part of a much bigger picture and include a command center and security guard response app for your college or university.
STANLEY Guard Personal Safety App does just that — it puts the campus law enforcement in your pocket.
As a college student or faculty and staff member with this app on your phone, you have a variety of resources at your fingertips. You can:
- Send emergency alerts to campus law enforcement by simply shaking your phone or pressing a button, or turn your phone into an alarm device, complete with loud noise and strobe lights.
- Enter a duress code for emergency situations — the app appears to close, but sends a discreet alert to campus law enforcement.
- Plan a journey within the app that tracks your trip from one location to another and sends an automatic alert to campus law enforcement if you deviate from your route or fail to check in upon arrival.
- Set a meeting timer to send an automatic alert to campus law enforcement if you don’t confirm you are safe at the end of the allotted meeting time.
- Activate man-down functionality, which monitors no movement or movement that signals a dangerous situation, like free-fall motion or impact, and sends an automatic alert to campus law enforcement.
- Add emergency contacts and notify them with a text and email alert if you are off campus and out of your campus law enforcement’s jurisdiction.
Each of these features have customization options so you control how alerts are activated based on your preferences. There is also a system in place to deactivate any alerts triggered by accident. To learn more about the functionality of our college student emergency app, please visit the higher education section of our website.
College students, faculty and staff members aren’t the only ones who benefit from using this student iPhone app. As a college campus using the STANLEY Guard Personal Safety App, security administration can streamline their processes and minimize campus risks through:
- Command Center dashboard that manages all alerts and responses over time for individuals on campus, helping with Clery Act compliance.
- Security Response App for campus law enforcement team which creates emergency alerts and dispatch instructions to the student’s phone.
- Mass notification system that sends personalized push notifications and/or text messages to the entire campus or just specific groups.
- Safety task management system that keeps a list of routine safety tasks like checking fire exits, ensuring doors are locked and patrolling specific areas.
- Geo-fencing capabilities for large campuses to improve campus law enforcement coverage, efficiency and productivity on campus.
- Automatic video recording upon activation of an alert to improve security investigation and documentation.
In addition to maximizing student and faculty and staff safety and streamlining campus law enforcement processes, our STANLEY Guard Personal Safety App creates reports based on the activity within the app, allowing campuses to have documentation of all incidents.
Manually gathering and organizing campus safety statistics can be overwhelming and time-consuming to do, and our college student safety app makes compliance with the Clery Act more achievable — reports can be automatically generated based on the alerts that come in through the safety network.
- Blue Light Emergency Phones
Locate all the blue light emergency phone systems on campus. Chances are high your school has them, as over 90 percent of college campuses do. It’s easy to forget about them or write them off as being irrelevant in the age of cellphones, but they still play a role. Become familiar with their locations for when you have to walk through campus at night, and plan to walk near the blue light towers.
Not only do they provide additional light, which authorities say decreases the risk of crime because they deter assailants, they also provide a direct connection to campus law enforcement in case of an emergency.
Cell phones can also be a direct connection to campus law enforcement, and you should have their phone number saved in your contacts — but they aren’t a failsafe. Your phone battery could be dead, and even if you have a full charge, waking up your phone and finding a phone number to dial takes time — time you may not have in case of an emergency.
No matter how old-fashioned they may seem, get to know the location of the blue light emergency phones on campus, and use them when you’re walking on campus at night.
- Campus Escort Services
Campuses want to ensure the safety of their students and staff — 96 percent of campus law enforcement provides 24-hour patrol coverage, and nine in 10 provide a personal safety escort service — so take advantage of it. This goes back to the good old buddy system — power in numbers.
If you’re walking back from a night class, late meeting or a party alone, ask for a campus escort so you have someone to walk with you. Whether you have a long walk to the other side of campus or a short walk across the quad, it’s better to walk with someone. It may seem like a hassle to request and wait for an escort, but it’s one of the easiest ways to minimize your risk of assault on campus.
- Pepper Spray
Pepper spray is popular for law enforcement and personal defense because, while the immediate effect is intense, its use doesn’t have any permanent effects. Pepper spray gets its name because its main ingredient is an extract from chili peppers.
Imagine what you experience after eating a hot pepper, but instead of being confined to your mouth, it spreads to your eyes, skin, throat and lungs. You can see why it’s such an effective deterrent for predators.
You can purchase pepper spray in all shapes and sizes — there are even some that look just like lipstick. One of the most popular is the keychain pepper spray — small and easily accessible. Since it is powerful, pepper spray should be used with caution.
Buy pepper spray that comes with a mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. Remember, spraying the pepper spray on a windy day could put you at risk as well.
Before you begin researching and purchasing pepper spray, make sure it’s allowed on your campus. Also, there are travel restrictions for carrying it with you on airplanes, so you may need to pack it a certain way for spring break or travel to/from home.
- Emergency Whistles and Alarms
Safety whistles or alarms take an old-fashioned approach. Whistles and alarms don’t rely on the Internet, so they aren’t likely to fail. There are a variety of loud whistles and alarms available — the louder, the better. They can scare off predators and call attention to others. It may not be a direct line to 911, but sounding an alarm or blowing a whistle could quickly deter an attacker.
The whistle or alarm you choose should be audible over a long distance and resistant to changes in temperature and moisture. Once you’ve found an option that meets both of those qualifications, make sure it’s easily accessible — whether it’s on a keychain or small enough to be kept in a purse or pocket — put some thought into the most convenient location for you to access it quickly.
- Map of Secure Routes
Whether you’re walking with a group, a friend or alone — which we don’t recommend — familiarize yourself with the campus and learn the safest routes back to your residence hall or apartment. Often, your campus law enforcement will provide secure routes on your campus map — if they don’t, you can get information about secure routes upon request.
If you have night classes, map your walk back to your residence hall or apartment in advance so you have a set path to travel. If you’re going to a different part of campus for a party or heading off campus for a late-night snack, know what parts of campus and the surrounding community are safest and which are the best to avoid.
Different campuses have different amounts of information available on their websites, but if you talk to your campus law enforcement, you can be confident in knowing you’re aware of your surroundings and are taking the safest routes.
- Self-Defense Know-How
Many schools offer self-defense classes to promote college student safety. Learning to defend yourself is a valuable skill not only during your time in school, but also for when you are living on your own after you graduate. Regardless of your height, weight and strength, there are actions you can take to defend yourself against an opponent of any size using the laws of physics.
A self-defense class will review these actions so you can be confident in knowing what areas of your body to use to defend yourself and what areas to target on your opponent. You’ll also learn escape methods. While being the victim of a physical attack is a scary thought, being unprepared is even more frightening.
If your school doesn’t offer a self-defense class, ask them about an organization in the surrounding community that does.
If you’re a student or the parent of a college student, contact your campus police or public safety department and let them know you’re interested in a student safety app like STANLEY Guard.
Are you a member of a college police department or with a department of student affairs and looking to create a safety network on campus? STANLEY can help you reduce the risk of assault and help assist with incident information gathering — contact STANLEY Security to request a demo of STANLEY Guard in action and discuss your safety plan on campus.