When taking the first steps on a college campus, students are overwhelmed with information about their classes, dorms, friends and every other little detail. With the immense amount of new information, campus safety can fall by the wayside.
According to Maj. Dale Gooding of the University of Akron Police Department in Akron, and Ed Frato-Sweeney, the director of residential and citizenship education at Hiram College in Hiram, college students only need to follow a few simple rules to ensure their safety on campus.
“College campuses in general are pretty safe places,” Frato-Sweeney said. “Every college campus has a staff like myself in the residence hall for campus safety. And our job is to make sure that the campuses are safe, and while we obviously can’t protect everybody from everything, it’s a pretty safe place,”
Gooding said, “Year in and year out, we always give basic tips like you don’t want to walk alone, use the buddy system, if they can’t find a friend to walk with them to their car or across campus, find out what the university offers.”
Frato-Sweeney added that most tips he wants to impart to students are common sense things like “locking your doors in your residence hall, keep your car locked, travel with people when going across campus, or if you need to travel by yourself, contact campus safety if you would like an escort.”
Gooding said, “When (students) become part of a college community, it really is a sense of community and they have to learn that as part of the community, they have to look out for one another. So, in a very short period of time, they will begin to realize – maybe subconsciously – what’s right and what’s wrong, who fits in and who doesn’t, and those sorts of things. And they really need to trust their instincts,”
Specifically, the professionals identified the biggest criminal threat on college campuses to be theft.
“The No. 1 crime on campus nationwide is theft,” Gooding said. “And a lot of times, that’s because students become very comfortable with their surroundings and they leave their personal property, things like their phones, and their laptops. They leave their dorm rooms unlocked and leave their Xboxes and everything they own unattended. It’s really important for students to keep track of their items and know where they’re at at all times.”
In the technological age, safety apps like Find My Friends and SafeTrek have become almost obligatory to students.
“We encourage people to let people know where they are,” Frato-Sweeney said. “If they’re going to a party or going somewhere off campus, to at least let somebody know that they’re going somewhere. Find My Friends is probably the most popular app that we have on campus.”
Regarding the carrying of nonlethal weapons, such as pepper spray or Tasers, Gooding said the most important thing is knowing how to properly use those tools.
“When you’re using something like that, you’re in close proximity of whoever you’re shooting at, so you don’t want to extend your arm, you want to use it and know the moment you use it, that’s your chance to escape. You don’t want to be standing around looking at your handiwork.”
Though tracking apps and pepper spray can reinforce students’ confidence in their safety and give them peace of mind, “students can call our campus safety 24 hours a day and they will come and escort them anywhere they need to go on campus,” Frato-Sweeney said. “Most college campuses are pretty safe, and there’s a whole team of people at any school that work hard to make sure it stays that way.”
Amanda Schenk is the Violet Spevack Editorial Intern at the Cleveland Jewish News.