While crimes against property are far more common on college and university campuses, some campus criminals target people as well. Not every crime against a person can be prevented, and victims should never blame themselves for a criminal's behavior. Still, you can help reduce your risk of being victimized by following some common-sense tips like the ones listed here.
Below are various methods for protecting yourself in certain situations.
In Your Residence
- Keep your doors locked, even when you are in the residence. Do not allow anyone in until you know who that person is. If the person claims to be dorm maintenance or a utility worker, verify that by asking for identification. People who have legitimate reasons to be there should not hesitate to provide IDs.
- If you have voice mail or an answering machine, do not put your name on your recording. Also, if you and your roommates are female, consider having a male friend record your greeting.
- If you are receiving threatening or obscene phone calls, contact campus police and the telephone operator if you live on-campus, or Metropolitan Police if you live off-campus.
- If you notice a person attempting to gain entry to your residence or attempting to look into your residence, call campus police if you live on-campus or the MPDC at 9-1-1 if you live off-campus. Be prepared to give a description of the person, and tell where you last saw the person and the direction he or she was headed in at the time.
In Your Car
- Park in well-lighted, busy areas. Avoid dark, secluded areas.
- Always lock your car, even if you are in it at the time.
- As you approach your car, be aware of other people around. If you see someone loitering near your car, do not go to it; instead, walk to an area where there are other people.
- Have your car keys ready. Make sure you don't have to stand by your car fumbling for your keys.
- Before you enter your car, look inside to make sure there is no intruder in the car.
- If you see another motorist stranded on the road, do not stop to help. Drive to the nearest phone—or use your cell phone—and notify the police.
- While driving, keep valuables out of sight, and not on the seat next to you. When you are stopped in traffic or at a stop light, some "smash-and-grab" thieves will break out the passenger window and snatch valuables from your car seat.
- If you don't already have one, consider getting a cell phone so you can call for assistance in an emergency.
- If you are stranded in your car, do not accept help from anyone. If someone offers help, stay in your car and ask him or her to call police. Do not accept help from the police unless they are in uniform and driving a marked patrol car.
- If you are approached by a carjacker demanding your car, give it up. Your life and health are worth more than any vehicle.
When You Are Out
- Don't carry a lot of cash. Women should carry money somewhere other than their purses. Men should carry their wallets in an inside coat pocket or a front pants pocket.
- Don't be flashy. Expensive clothes and jewelry can make you a target for thieves—on- or off-campus.
- Avoid shortcuts through dark, secluded areas. Stay where other people are around.
- Do not walk alone. If you jog or walk for exercise, do it with others.
- Walk with confidence. Thieves are more likely to single out those who appear hesitant or unsure of themselves.
- When walking to your residence or car, always have your keys ready so you will spend as little time as possible in the open.
- If you are being harassed, loudly say, "Leave me alone!" If that doesn't stop the harassment, continue to attract people's attention and head toward any type of facility where other people are around.
- If you are confronted, give up your valuables—especially if the attacker has a weapon. Nothing is as important as your life.
- Try to stay out of arm's reach of the attacker. Don't let the attacker move you into an alley or car. Your best defense if the attacker persists is to scream and run.
- Consider purchasing a personal alarm for defensive purposes.
- Look into self-defense classes. Many are offered on campus or in the community.
In recent years, ATM users have become a targets for thieves. To prevent yourself from becoming a victim at an ATM:
- If possible, use ATM's that are located inside buildings, such as a student union. If you must use an outdoor ATM, avoid using it at night. If you must use one at night, select one with a lot of people around, that is well-lighted, and is not in a secluded, low-visibility area.
- Try to have a friend accompany you when using an ATM.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.
- Complete your transaction as quickly as possible, and do not flaunt your cash. Secure your cash and your ATM card in your wallet or purse before leaving the machine.
Against Sexual Assault
Many of the general "street safety" tips apply to reducing your risk of being sexually assaulted. If you are the victim of an attempted sexual assault, remember that the goal is survival. Here are some steps to help prevent some assaults from progressing, and for helping victims in the aftermath of a sexual assault:
- Stall for time. Figure out your options. Each situation is different. Decide if you will fight, try to talk your way out of the assault, scream, or, if necessary for your survival, submit.
- If you fight, hit hard and fast. Target the eyes and groin.
- Try to dissuade the attacker from continuing. Tell him you have a sexually transmitted disease, tell him you are menstruating, urinate, vomit, or do anything to discourage the attacker.
- If you are the victim of a sexual assault, call 9-1-1 immediately. The responding officers will assist you in seeking medical treatment and advice, which are critical in the aftermath of an attack.
- Seek help if you feel you need it. While different victims react differently, the weeks and months following a sexual assault can be extremely difficult. Most campuses offer support groups or other resources for victims. Remember: you are the victim, not the person who did anything wrong.
- Avoid "date rape." Tragically, many sexual assaults on campus involve date rape. Learn more about this crime, its tell-tale signs, and strategies for getting out of difficult and dangerous situations. Many campuses offer self-help seminars on date rape.
- Be responsible in your consumption of alcohol. Many date rapes involve the use of alcohol or illegal drugs. And never leave your drink—alcoholic or otherwise—unattended at a party or social event. And never accept a "special drink," the contents of which you are unsure about, from anyone you don't know and trust. Unfortunately, so-called "date rape" drugs such as GHB are becoming increasingly common on campuses and in the community.
Stalking is defined as repeated harassment that could or does cause the victim to feel intimidated, threatened, or frightened. While it may be impossible to completely deter a stalker from the beginning, you can take important steps to prevent the harassment from continuing:
- If you are a victim of stalking, report it to your campus police department and/or the MPDC. Even if you are unsure about filing charges, it is important to report the activity right away.
- Gather information to help your case, such as taped recordings of threatening phone calls, letters, emails, license plate information, description of a vehicle, a personal description, and a detailed listing of any contacts the stalker makes with you.
- Follow up in court, if necessary. Take out an anti-stalking order of protection in court, and/or file a civil lawsuit against the stalker for damages resulting from the stalker's behavior. Campuses often offer free legal advice and support in these types of cases.
- If the stalking continues after the anti-stalking order has been filed, contact the police immediately and press charges