Safety on college campuses is often ignored as a criteria in choosing a college until an event like the tragedy at Virginia Tech occurs. Although nothing can totally prevent the type of tragedy that occurred, students should consider the issue of safety when examining the colleges where they may be spending the next 4 years.
All colleges in the United States are required by law to report certain information about crime on and near their campuses. The US Department of Education publishes campus security statistics which can be accessed by different criteria. This is the most complete list of campus crimes because it provides the information required by the government. For those interest in all aspects of campus safety, the website of Security on Campus, a non profit organization, discusses many issues related to crimes on college campuses.
Although these web sites provide a great deal of information about safety on and near college campuses, there are several things students must keep in mind in examining the issue of campus safety. First, not all colleges report data in the same way particularly for less serious crimes such as underage drinking. At some colleges, this is considered an internal issue and not reported as a crime. Second, the fact that a campus is reporting crimes is not necessarily a bad thing. It may be that the campus is strict in its enforcement of criminal activity and as a result reports a higher crime rate than another campus that is less strict. If you see reported criminal activity that is a concern, you should talk to safety personal at the college in question as well as students and others on that campus to get their input on the perceived safety of the campus. On the other hand, if the campus reports virtually no criminal activity, you will also want to ask questions. No place is free of all crime and any college that so indicates may be covering up serious issues. Asking lots of questions is often the best way to get the information needed to make the choice of which college to attend.
When visiting campuses, students should also be aware of safety measure in place at each campus. Some things to pay attention to include the placement of emergency phones on campus and how many there are, do the dorms use an electronic key card systems and are the doors always locked or are many propped open.