In just one week there have been four incidents of college students being held up and robbed on or near their college campus in Atlanta, GA. The very next week near another Atlanta campus, four students were hijacked at gun point. The robbers stole their wallets, jewelry, cell phones and ATM cards, locked them in the trunk and proceeded to a nearby ATM. I’m sure the intent was to force the young men to give them their pin numbers. However, one of the victims had secretly kept his cell phone on him and was able to dial 911. The robbers were arrested at the ATM machine and the victims escaped unharmed.
In March, a female student on a college campus in western Georgia was sexually assaulted as she walked from a classroom to a food hall. She was walking on a well lit, well traveled path at dusk.
Are these isolated incidents? Does there seem to be a rash of crimes on Georgia college campuses? No! I just happen to live in Georgia and hear the news reports about our colleges. It happens at all colleges in all states. A friend’s daughter reported three separate robberies that occurred in her campus housing parking lot. Her first year, three rapes were reported on campus; one of the “safest” colleges in Florida. However, when your sons or daughters are looking at colleges to attend, you never hear about these reports. They want your business; crimes on campus do not help business. Matter of fact most are handled by on-campus security and therefore not reported to the public except in some well hidden statistics.
In the U.S. Department of Education, the FBI and U.S. Secret Service research report “Campus Attacks – Targeted Violence Affecting Institutions of Higher Learning”, incidents of college campus violence has dramatically increased in the past twenty years. The report shows that one-in-five women who attend college will be the victim of a sexual assault during her four years on campus.
Many campuses are taking more security precautions such as providing transportation for students late at night and offering self defense courses on campus. There are steps that students can take to protect themselves, including the following:
1. Never accept rides from someone you don’t know or trust.
2. Know where emergency phones on campus are located.
3. Walk on well lit paths and avoid short cuts, especially at night.
4. Travel with a friend or group especially at night and definitely when walking at night.
5. At social events, drink only from sealed containers, avoid punch bowls. If you leave your drink for any amount of time unattended, don’t drink it. Throw it away and get a new drink. Never accept an opened drink from someone you don’t know or trust.
6. Avoid using ATM’s at night or when alone.
7. Attend a self-defense course.
8. Carry some type of non-lethal, self-defense product when you are alone or at night, and have it easily accessible. Products such as pepper sprays and stun guns are inexpensive and can save your life.
9. Always carry a cell phone. But, remember, a cell phone won’t help you stop a criminal. By the time someone you alert arrives, it may be too late. Use the cell phone to call for help after you have pepper sprayed or stunned the perpetrator and have run far away from them. A pepper spray containing dye can help the police identify the criminal. Have the campus police number programmed into your phone. Consider the new iPhone application “SilentBodyguard”. It notifies up to four different people that you are in a dangerous situation and sends and resends your exact GPS location every 60 seconds when activated.
10. Call campus police anytime you notice anything or anyone who appears suspicious.
11. Keep your dorm or apartment locked and don’t share your keys with anyone or open the door for someone you don’t know. Use a peep hole to view who is at the door before opening it.
12. Use some type of door alarm on your doors at night or when alone. Alarms such as an alarm that hangs on your door knob and is activated by motion or a door stop wedge with an alarm cost under $20.00 and will alert you if anyone attempts to open your door.
13. When walking or running, if you wear earphones to listen to music, keep one ear free so you can hear what is going on around you. Carry a pepper spray or “Hotwalkers” (dumbbells with pepper spray built into the end).
14. Do not allow an assailant to take you away in a car or otherwise move you. If he does you will have no way to call for help and you have less than a 50% chance of surviving. Kick, scream, and use a whistle, pepper spray, stun gun or whatever you have to protect yourself.
15. If you receive inappropriate to threatening telephone calls, text messages or emails, report it to campus police.
16. Be aware of your surroundings at all times in all places. Always have an “escape route” especially in locations such as parties, bars and concert areas.
17. Be sure someone knows where you are. If you don’t plan to be gone all night or over the weekend, be sure to have someone check on you and you do the same for them.
18. Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. Most people know that alcohol or drug use can contribute to the probability of becoming a victim by impairing judgment and making you less aware of your surroundings. Each year over 1,700 college students die due to some type of alcohol related incident, many more are injured or become victims of date rape.
While college is a time for young people to become more independent and self reliant, it is still the parents’ responsibility to prepare you child for this new and potentially threatening environment. Talk to them about the risks, give them the information how to protect themselves, and most importantly give them the tools ( non-lethal self-defense products) that can truly protect them if they become a victim.