Protect Yourself From Crime on Campus
Protect Yourself From Crime on Campus
Two Towson University students were recently held at gunpoint, robbed and assaulted with a crowbar in their dorm room. Former University of Alabama in Huntsville biology professor Amy Bishop is currently being tried for capital murder for gunning down three colleagues at a faculty meeting. And who can forget the Virginia Tech massacre in which 32 people were shot to death by a student?
Aside from the sad situations recounted above, there have been dozens of similar incidents of crime on campus in recent years. It’s a harsh reality. So how prepared are you in the event that such a threat occurs at your school? And more important, how well-prepped is your college?
Are Colleges Prepared for Crime on Campus?
In a study published last year in Radiologic Technology, emergency preparedness plans from 28 different higher education institutions were put under scrutiny. The research, led by Northwestern State University in Louisiana professor Tammy Curtis, concluded that “most colleges are prepared for basic emergencies [such as fires or severe weather] but lack key components to successfully address mass-casualty events.” A mere five of the nearly 30 institutions reviewed had policies regarding school shootings.
In the March 2010 Towson U incident, two armed and masked men entered a high-rise residence hall at midday, forcing two students to remain in a corner as the perpetrators swiped phones, computers and other possessions. Even though email alerts were issued to warn that the perpetrators could still be at large, some students aren’t satisfied.
Says Towson freshman Sam Missan: “I am upset with how these suspects got into the towers, especially with a gun. Towson did not send out any emails with a follow-up or safety tips, aside from a basic notification about what happened, which in my opinion, isn't fair to the students. Knowing that a man with a gun can get into my dorm at 3:30 in the afternoon is unacceptable.”
What Your School’s Emergency Plan Should Include
Visit your school’s Web site to find out what precautions are in place in the event of such a crisis. As noted in Curtis’ study, the president of Virginia Tech mandated several internal reviews following the VT tragedy to evaluate the school’s existing emergency plan. The review committees’ recommendations included the following (things you should expect from your own school’s emergency plan):
1. Classroom door locks that are modified.
2. Video surveillance cameras, centrally located and monitored.
3. Electronic key cards for controlled access to facilities.
4. Mass communication outlets (e.g., phones and Internet access) within classrooms.
5. Frequent emergency drills.
6. Emergency response protocol with awareness education.
7. Campus security committee and master plan.
Do you feel your school’s plan is falling short?
Make noise about it by forming a student group to address concerns with university officials. This kind of proactive approach is a recurring theme when it comes to preventing crime on campus.
How to Prevent Crime on Campus
“Prevention activities are proactive approaches designed to address issues before events happen,” writes Curtis in her study. “Actions include assessing emotional well-being of employees and students, physical and environmental hazards, campus culture and climate, and the safety and security of the environment.”
If a student has violent tendencies or exhibits otherwise suspect behavior, immediately notify campus police -- some schools have adopted protocol whereby an analysis of a given student's threat level is conducted. Meanwhile, if you lose an identification card that permits access to any campus buildings, notify the university so the card’s capabilities can be deactivated. Moreover, never allow building access to somebody who is not authorized to enter.
“From now on, I’m going to be more aware,” says Missan, “especially looking through my peephole and keeping my door locked at all times. I am never going to open a door for a person I do not know.”
Crime on Your Campus: What to Do
If -- perish the thought -- you find yourself in a crisis situation, again it’s crucial to be proactive. Says Randy Spivey, executive director of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety: “A proactive survival mindset, a belief that you can take control and survive, is a critical factor in determining whether you become a victim or survivor of aggressors. History shows that the immediate action of people on the scene is the most effective way to minimize or stop violence.”
CPPS has developed an instructional DVD for students, titled Shots Fired on Campus: Guidance for Surviving an Active Shooter Situation, available for individual purchase. The program is designed to train students to prevent and survive a school shooting.
Here are some fundamental safety response measures:
-- Have an “out” strategy. Try to escape from the building, even if it’s through a low-level window.
-- Lock yourself in a room if you are in the same building with a shooter but unable to get out. Duck down and turn off all lights.
-- Students should scatter when in the same room with the offender instead of huddling in a corner, which can provide an easy target for a shooter. Make use of cell phones whenever possible, to call 911 or to text someone for help.
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