Since reporting of campus crime rates became mandatory in 1982, colleges and universities have ramped up efforts to combat crime. And while instances of robbery, burglary, sexual assault, and other violent crimes have decreased ever so slightly over the past three years, statistics from the Department of Education show there is still a great deal of progress to be made. Since crime can occur on any college campus, how do you send your college-bound child off to college and still get some sleep at night?
Crime as a Selection Criteria
When you visit a college campus, your child will likely check out the dorm rooms, peruse the social scene, and scope out meal plans. What should you as the parent be looking for? Among other things, ask your tour guide about campus crime rates and safety services. For the most accurate figures, visit the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (DOE OPE) website to get the number of crimes reported on each campus for the past few years. You’d be surprised by how much crime rates can vary from one campus to the next. A high incidence of crime probably will cross one of your top picks right off the list.
Keep the Car at Home
One of the most common crimes on campus is the theft of a motor vehicle, with just under 4,000 vehicles stolen from college campuses in 2011. If your student is attending a college or university with a good public transportation system, consider leaving the vehicle home altogether and sending cab and bus fare. Not only can you avoid burglary and vandalism, but you can also sleep better knowing your child isn’t behind the wheel in the event of an accident. In addition, if your child isn’t driving during his or her college years, you could see your auto insurance rates decline drastically since most insurance carriers charge higher rates for college students driving for fewer than seven years.
Insure High-Value Belongings
College students these days take more expensive items to their campuses. At the same time, according to the DOE OPE, more than 20,000 burglaries were reported on campuses nationwide in 2011. If your student’s dorm room were to be burglarized and robbed, what would it cost to replace his or her possessions, including computers, electronics, jewelry, cell phones, clothes, and other personal items? The good news is that a standard homeowners insurance policy typically provides coverage for students living on campus, as long as your household still is considered his or her primary residence. If you don’t own a homeowners policy or would like separate coverage for your child, consider a renter’s insurance policy that usually costs less than $50/month.
Play Good Defense
What if your student is not the victim of a campus crime, but a perpetrator? Too often an innocent prank or fraternity initiation gone too far can end up in property damage or a bodily injury never intended. If you are still financially responsible for your children you can be held accountable for their poor judgment and sued for damages. Make sure your home and/or umbrella insurance policies extend coverage for your student in the event he or she becomes responsible for injuries or damages incurred by another student.
Finally, talk to your child about on-campus safety resources and encourage safe practices, such as traveling with a partner after dark and avoiding binge drinking. Ask your child questions so you can gauge his or her understanding about avoiding crime. What might seem like common sense to an adult could be truly helpful information for a teenager. While much of what we say goes in one ear and out the other, something might stick that comes in handy at just the right moment.
This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, Editor of the HomeInsurance.com blog. Carrie has been writing insurance news and consumer reports for HomeInsurance.com since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism.