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9 Steps to a Safer Campus

9 Steps to a Safer Campus

These nine steps will help you identify risks, minimize harm and prevent future incidents for a safer campus.

Higher ed institutions reported 38,100 criminal offenses to the US Department of Education in 2017. That same year, participating campuses also reported 16,977 VAWA offenses, 223,575 disciplinary actions and 1,916 fires.

Campus is becoming the place where you can do everything - eat, sleep, learn, exercise, shop and work - which is why it's more important than ever to make sure it's a safe place. And, since it's such an important deciding factor for students and their parents, there's also a financial incentive to improve safety.

These nine steps will help you create a safer campus for your staff, students and the surrounding community.

Download this campus safety cheat sheet for a downloadable overview of common on-campus crimes and effective safety tools.

1. Educate Yourself on Campus Safety

Only aware, educated individuals can successfully run a safe campus. Learn about the harmful myths, such as victim-blaming, that promote rape culture. Understand that disabled students, the LGBTQ+ community and women of color experience the highest rates of violence.

Also, recognize that campus safety is more than violence. Campus safety also covers financial abuse, identity theft, dormitory break-ins, fires, stalking, data privacy, harassment and more.

2. Implement Mandatory Programming

Everyone plays a role in campus safety. Unfortunately, not everyone knows that they have a job to do. At the start of every year, require that new and existing students attend a short workshop on campus safety.

Mandatory programming makes it easy to start an important conversation about campus safety and teach students how they can keep themselves and others safe. Explain that reporting tools exist and are meant to be used. Reassure students that their tips will be taken seriously and that they don’t have to fear retaliation.

3. Establish a Campus Safety Team

Campus safety isn’t a one-man job. Organize a team with representatives from groups all over campus. Involve students, parents, faculty and non-faculty staff members, the IT department, on- and off-campus businesses, as well as local and campus police.

Each representative can bring a unique perspective to the table. For example, the campus police officer might suggest emergency call boxes whereas the IT representative may push for greater data security tools.

4. Conduct a Risk Assessment

With your newly formed campus safety team, conduct an annual risk assessment. Identify all risks on campus, from break-ins, burglaries and vandalism to rape, robbery and abductions.

Look at crime statistics on your campus and compare that to the standard. When you are aware of your campus’s vulnerabilities, weaknesses and risks, you’re better prepared to respond to incidents and prevent future ones from occurring.

Keep your campus's vulnerabilities, weaknesses and threats organized by using our risk assessment matrix template.

5. Create Goals for a Safer Campus

Your risk assessment should give you a greater understanding of common campus dangers that require your attention. Based on these dangers, develop a list of short- and long-term goals.

Creating goals helps you stay on track. Long-term goals might include reducing the number of domestic violence incidents by fostering a respectful, positive culture. Short-term goals may involve improving support for victims by implementing one or more anonymous helplines.

6. Use Tools and Technology

Find technology that makes your campus safer. Integrated lighting controls prevent crime by keeping your buildings, dormitories and roads well-lit at night. Real-time security response software, such as TrackTik, helps you deal with emergency situations quickly. Case management software helps with tracking incidents, conducting investigations and reporting.

Download our free eBook to learn more about how case management software can help keep your campus safer.

7. Define Roles and Develop Processes

Make your campus safer by clearly defining roles and processes. When an incident occurs, the initial response, investigation and follow-up involves many parties such as campus police, HR, investigators and administrators.

If the campus police officer, for example, doesn’t know it’s his job and not the investigator’s job to collect initial evidence from the scene, important pieces of evidence could be lost.

8. Monitor the Effectiveness of New Tools and Programs

Whatever you do to improve campus safety, be it adopting new tools or improving existing processes, monitor their effectiveness. Continually test and improve your campus safety initiatives.

If your new campus lighting system seems to be making high-risk areas more incident-prone, consider having a campus police officer patrol the area.

9. Ask for Feedback

Once a year, ask for feedback. Prepare a school- or community-wide survey about the school’s safety efforts. Large-scale evaluations can expose gaps in the plan that you or the campus safety team might have missed.

Interview former victims about how you did regarding response, communication and support. Then, consider making changes based on their answers.