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Articles / Campus Life / Trod The Safe Sod - Crime on Campus

Trod The Safe Sod - Crime on Campus

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | June 20, 2017

For us parents, sending our sons and daughters away to college to live independently for the first time can be stressful. Youthful idealism can cloud the objectivity of some teens quite easily.

While some high schoolers may have been away from home for short summer excursions such as various camps or missions, taking up residence to live in another city is a different matter. In some cases, that new collegiate residence can be thousands of miles away.

In trying to see college-student parenting (many years later) from a current perspective, I was doing some research on college crime reports. Those are the reports that detail how many different types of bad things happen on a particular campus. If you would like to know more about college crime reports, check some of these links.

College crime reports are one thing, but the safety issue of those communities (or large cities) in which the colleges are located is something else. So, I delved into that, using my favorite search engine. That's when I bumbled onto what I think is a good idea for college students' safety and parents' relative peace of mind.

First, a disclaimer: I have absolutely no connection whatever to this product. I have had no interaction with the company and only came by this information via the Internet. So, please don't consider the information here some kind of marketing ploy. My post is merely an FYI for students and parents.

This is an app for your phone. and its mission is described as being a GPS-driven, real-time crime and navigation map app (a “mapp"?). Apparently, it debuted a little over a year ago and combines real-time crime data and seamless GPS navigation with a social media twist. Part of the description information I found sounds interesting:

As freshmen spend the summer getting ready for their first semesters on college campuses, parents will have their physical well-being top of mind. Navigating a new and unknown place is a daunting task, and safety should be a top priority. Unlike other maps and GPS apps that guide users to their destination along the quickest routes based on traffic and direct streets, the RedZone Map app guides users to their destination along the safest routes, based on recent crime in the area, so that students don't accidentally wander into unsafe areas of their surrounding campuses.

With RedZone Map, students will be better informed, more aware, and safer of the area around them. The RedZone Map is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

Being available for free is certainly an advantage, and people are taking advantage of that. It's available on mobile devices, it is powered by geo-fencing to inform users of high-crime areas by voice and screen. Offering a risky route and a safe route, RedZone will redirect the user around risky areas, out of harm's way. Coupled with crowdsourcing, it allows people to drop a pin to reflect hazards that they see such as accidents, police sightings, crimes in progress, etc.

I went to the Red Zone Web site for more information. The presentation there was rather dramatic. The introductory page states: “RedZone Map provides you with a very secure and safe way to view and report crimes in your surroundings that helps you make informed decisions when traveling or navigating your way throughout your journey."

When you click on the “See how it works" link, it takes you to a series of full-screen video clips that show, among other action sequences, a father driving with his young son in the back seat, a senior-aged couple standing on a balcony overlooking a metropolitan area, and, as if that wasn't exciting enough, some fast-cut scenes of what looks like actual news footage of a full-scale riot/robbery where crooks are smashing jewelry store windows with hammers and an elderly woman is being mugged. I presume that these are the kinds of neighborhoods we should avoid.

Obviously, colleges located in larger urban areas are the most likely to have questionable neighborhoods. The issue with college students is many times either oblivion or a naive outlook on the world. Just for a sampling, I looked up a crime report from Temple University. Located in urban Philadelphia, Temple appears to have its main safety issue with robbery. I don't know how well Red Zone will advise users about robbery unless it can issue warnings such as, “Caution: Shady looking characters loitering on the Northeast corner of Broad and Market."

The ubiquitous collegiate burglary claims are supported by a College Crime Watch report that notes:

… Most college students want to believe that their college campus is a safe, secure environment where they are free to learn and have fun without the threat of serious danger. Unfortunately, crime on college campuses is a reality that far too many students have to contend with. The Office of Postsecondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education collects annual information on a variety of crimes that occur on college campuses each year. While these reports include all alleged crimes, the statistics are shocking in some respects.

At public, 4-year (or more) institutions with 10,000+ students, the most commonly reported criminal offense in recent years was burglary, with 6,712 burglaries reported in 2011, down from 7,241 the year before. These ratings are for on-campus events only, so these numbers do not reflect burglaries or alleged burglaries that take place in off campus student housing, like apartment complexes.

A far distant second to burglaries, motor vehicle theft is the second most reported criminal offense on college campuses of the above-mentioned size, with 1,349 reported motor vehicle thefts in 2011, up from 1,336 in 2010.

Finally, the third most commonly-reported criminal offense on college campuses is forced sexual assault, with 1,153 reported in 2011, which is a slight increase from 1,038 in 2010. …

Since Red Zone is coupled to realtime happenings via social media and police activity, it would be prudent to do some planning ahead when venturing out from the relative security of campus. Speaking of campus dangers, I also did some research on which are the most “dangerous" colleges. Opinions vary according to the source.

For example, here are the top five “dangerous" colleges from three different sources:

First, from The Daily Beast:

“For The Daily Beast's second-annual ranking of the most dangerous colleges in the U.S., we pored over the three most recent calendar years of campus security and crime data (2006-2008) compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, as well as the FBI and the Secret Service, in conjunction with the Clery Act, the federal mandate requiring all schools that receive federal funding to disclose crime information annually. The data reflect incidents reported to campus or local police, not convictions." The DB's Top 5 (crime stats are on the site):

1, Tufts University, Medford/Somerville, MA

2, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

3, Rutgers University-Newark, Newark, New Jersey

4, University of Hartford, West Hartford, Connecticut

5, University of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland

From the Business Insider:

College is hard enough without having to worry about serious crime. Yet crime is a reality on and around many college campuses.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Report identified 2,696 violent crime incidents and 87,160 property crime incidents on and around college campuses in 2011.

We ranked the most dangerous colleges by averaging FBI crime data per capita from 2008 to 2011 for schools with enrollment over 10,000. Schools were ranked based on a combination of violent crime rank and property crime rank, with violent crime weighted four times higher.

NOTE: Some people have objected to our use of FBI data because (1) not all schools participate in the survey and (2) some schools are more aggressive than others in reporting crime in neighboring noncampus areas.

In response to criticism, we prepared an alternate list based on on-campus crimes tracked for the Clery Act. We are happy to report, however, that this alternate ranking produced remarkably similar results — suggesting that both lists are good at identifying dangerous colleges. For instance, two schools which objected vocally to our original list — UCLA and UC-Riverside — were also named among the most dangerous colleges based on this new data set.

We have included responses submitted by various schools on their respective slides. …

#1 University of California — Los Angeles

#2 University of California — Berkeley

#3 Duke University

#4 Florida A&M University

#5 Vanderbilt University

From American School Search:

The rankings for the 100 Most Dangerous Colleges in the US have been compiled using official government crime data for 6,694 colleges and universities in America. This data has been obtained from the US Department of Education, and outlines various alleged acts of crime that occurred both on-campus and off-campus during 2011 – 2013.

Based on our unique scoring methods, we have subjectively characterized the colleges listed below as being both dangerous and unsafe relative to other colleges in America. Our interpretative analysis of college and campus safety also predicts that the probability of a students involvement in an act of crime while studying at these colleges is relatively high when compared to other colleges and campus areas.

You can also view our ratings for the Top 100 Safest Colleges in the United States or learn more about methodology used to determine the most dangerous colleges in the USA.

It's important to remember that almost no college campus is absolutely safe and completely exempt from crime, and we encourage you to explore more than just our campus Safety Reports when evaluating colleges.

1. Gallaudet University

Washington, DC

Roughly 1,600 students enrolled. Presumably very dangerous campus. Disappointing statistics for forcible sex offenses. Our grade for campus security is F.2. Amherst College

Amherst, MA

About 1,900 students attend this school. Presumably very dangerous campus. Bad statistics for forcible sex offenses. Our rating for campus security: F.3. Reed College

Portland, OR

More than 1,500 students. Presumably very dangerous campus. Apparent problems with forcible sex offenses. Our grade for campus security: F.

4. Hampshire College

Amherst, MA

Around 1,500 students attend this school. Presumably very dangerous campus. Apparent problems with forcible sex offenses. Our rating for campus security: F.

5. Little Priest Tribal College

Winnebago, NE

About 200 students. Presumably very dangerous campus. Disappointing statistics for aggravated assaults. Our grade for campus security is F.

So, it appears as though it's possible to make a case for a college being “dangerous" in a number of different ways. The disparity of those three sources' rankings tell that tale.
What, then, should aspiring college student and parents do? Obviously, campus visits are mandatory. Even reviewing crime reports and police logs can be misleading in either direction — either too dark or too naive. Talking to current students on campus is another firsthand source of truth. Thus, actually being on campus, observing the surrounding areas, and absorbing the general environment and “vibrations" are essential activities.
Getting back to Red Zone, keep in mind that it's not a predictor of trouble, merely a reporter of what's happening out there. Also keep in mind that there's always a time lag between when an event is happening and when it gets reported. So, technically, it's possible to venture into fresh danger before it can be reported and relayed to your Red Zone app. But, regardless of the timing, being forewarned is being forearmed, as they say.
Others have said, “When seconds count, help is only minutes away." Keep that in mind if you believe that police or campus security are your white knights. Even white knights are challenged by dark nights. Be conservative and use your head!
Be sure to check out all my articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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