Living on campus and away from home for the first time, many college freshmen are susceptible to crimes like burglary and theft. But on some campuses, security personnel are trying to help students learn crime-prevention tactics early on.
In recent years, many campuses have started or expanded programs to prevent sexual assault of students. But the crimes many will experience relate to theft, which is why some colleges are stepping up programming on the issue.
According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 6,716 reported burglaries in campus residence halls and 5,299 reported in other areas of campus throughout the U.S. in 2016. There were also 1,106 total on-campus robberies. (Robbery is when an assailant induces someone to hand over their property, while burglary is when someone steals property while the owner is away.)
With all these in mind, some universities are working to ensure students have all the tools necessary to avoid theft when they arrive on campus.
At Winston-Salem State University, a historically black college, crime-prevention learning is incorporated specifically into a required freshman classes, taught by a campus police officer.
“Like many college campuses, larceny is the most reported offense on campus,” Winston-Salem spokesperson Jay Davis said in an email. “This includes students leaving or misplacing student ID cards. To address this issue, WSSU’s Police and Public Safety are taking a layered approach.”
The issue of stealing wallets — not just in the hopes of finding cash but credit cards as well as student and government IDs for the purpose of identity theft — has become an increasing trend at universities, according to John Ojeisekhoba, campus security chief at Biola University in California. Ojeisekhoba said along with increasing issues of identity theft, stealing wallets with student IDs can allow criminals swipe-in access to areas of campus where they can find more valuable items to steal. Consumer Reports found there was a 20 percent increase in reported identity theft among college students in 2017.
“The trend coming up is mostly wallets, because you can go easily to any store and use someone’s card,” Ojeisekhoba said. “From a student’s single wallet, there are financial gains — if there’s money or a card in the wallet, if there’s someone’s ID, that’s icing on the cake for identity theft. Bad guys also know students keep their student ID card in their wallets. They can come back to the campus, access more areas and steal more stuff.”
In 2017 Ojeisekhoba was the recipient of the National Clery Compliance Award for his efforts at Biola. As at Winston-Salem State, Ojeisekhoba said informing students early is key to crime prevention, as freshmen are often targets.
“We do things in different phases,” Ojeisekhoba said. “The orientation information is generic but also has in-depth details. For the orientation, we cover the current crime trends on college campuses.”
At Winston-Salem State, the freshman experience is littered with moments of learning about crime prevention. In addition to the mandatory class, Davis said students periodically break into smaller sessions about crime prevention during the weeklong freshman orientation prior to the start of classes.
As Ojeisekhoba prepares for the arrival of a new freshman class, he plans to keep them up-to-date on the growing issue of bike theft, which he said is on the rise due to the ease with which bikes can be resold. Ojeisekhoba even tested as many available bike locks he could find on the market in order to determine which would be best for students to use and determined that a metal U-lock is preferable. Biola will now hand out 200 free U-locks to students who agree to register their bikes with campus security.
Ojeisekhoba said in his experience, informing students early on about crime trends at their university poises them to be more successful at crime prevention.
“Sometimes we’ll have events in dormitories to make sure we’re reaching freshmen beyond the orientation,” Ojeisekhoba said. “It’s helpful for us and for them to use this medium to educate freshmen.”