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Guest Column / Police Chief Leon Krolikowski

Published 8:57 am, Saturday, August 23, 2014
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With fall approaching, hundreds of New Canaan students are packing up to move to a nearby city or across the country to pursue their studies. Becoming independent almost overnight comes with certain risks and responsibilities.

Street crime is on the increase in most large U.S. cities. It is also growing on campuses and in small communities. No college is immune to crime. Nearly 98 percent of the crimes committed on college campuses are related to theft; yet violent crimes and sexual assault are a rising concern.

Going away to college means a new milestone of adulthood and adult responsibility. For the first time in life, new college students are wholly responsible for their own personal safety. As such, both parents and their children must work together to enhance the new college student's safety.

Questions for parents

Have you taught your child some common-sense safety tips to help your child stay safe on and off campus?

Have you had a conversation on how your child can minimize the possibility of becoming a sexual assault victim?

Have you had a conversation with your child about alcohol use, drug use and the related risks?

College students armed with a basic awareness of the issue can significantly reduce their vulnerability to crime.

Here are some tips that will keep students safe:

Act confident. Pay attention to everything around you, and stand or walk confidently like you know where you are going even if you don't. Walk with your head up, look around, notice everything. Always scan your immediate surroundings. In addition, keep your distance when walking past strangers on the street or in dark areas.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Know where you are, where you are going and what is going on around you. Pay attention to people, events and potential exit routes. Trust your instincts.

Always have emergency contacts on you or in your device. If you have a smartphone, program emergency numbers into it. It's one of the first places emergency responders check because they are able to bypass your pass code in order to access your contacts.

Be aware. Be wary of people who approach asking for directions or the time of day. Keep a polite but safe distance.

Call for help. If you are confronted with a dangerous situation, cry out for assistance. Yelling "FIRE! FIRE!" instead of "HELP!" will generally bring faster attention.

Contact campus security or campus police: Check your school's website and see what services are provided (e.g. escorts, valuable property marking, crime prevention training, self-defense, crime alerts, etc.)

Copy important documents: Make copies of important papers, credit cards, health ID cards, etc. Place them in a safe place and give a copy to your parents.

Domestic violence. Know what domestic violence is and how not to become a victim. Violent or threatening behavior is never acceptable. Report all suspected domestic violence immediately.

Do not go to an ATM at night. Criminals often watch ATMs for victims. Many crimes occur at or near ATMs.

Drink in moderation. Excessive drinking impairs your judgment and makes you an easy target.

Hide valuables. Avoid wearing valuable jewelry, leave most valuables at home, keep your purse inside your coat or tucked close to your body. Do not carry a loose bag or backpack. Do not leave valuables in plain sight from windows or in vehicles.

If you see something, say something. Do not hesitate to call the police or campus security when you see something that does not seem right.

Locate the emergency system areas on campus. Most campuses have emergency call buttons or phones scattered throughout campus for students to utilize in the event of an emergency. Find out what your campus' system is and locate the areas in which the systems are placed. Should you ever find yourself in trouble, it will be much easier if you know where you can call for help.

Lock up. Protect your belongings and keep your dorm room safe. When leaving your dorm or apartment, make sure that all doors and windows are locked -- including the main building entry, exits and patio doors.

Mark your valuables. Engrave your valuables (laptop, digital cameras, cell phones, etc.) with an identification number. This may discourage theft and will help the police recover your property if it is stolen. Most campuses provide this service for free.

Read and learn from your school's campus crime report (the Clery Act Report). Colleges are legally required to disclose information about violent crimes on campus. This information is usually available from the campus police department or on the school's website. Ask around to find out where the trouble spots are on campus. Many colleges offer basic training in safety techniques during new student orientation, take advantage of it. Get familiar and be more aware of what occurs on your campus. Prevention is always the best cure.

Other students are strangers, too. Do not go with, or accept rides from strangers, including other students, unless you know them well. Never accept a drink from someone you don't know well and never give anyone you don't know well your personal information.

Report crimes. If you are the victim of a crime report it. You may help someone else from becoming a victim.

Trust your intuition. If a party or a dorm room study session starts to make you feel uncomfortable, get out of there. Your safety is more important than being polite.

Use the buddy system. Always travel with at least one other person you trust. This is especially true after dark. Stay on well-lit, commonly traveled pathways. Avoid taking shortcuts down alleyways, in unlit areas or areas containing shrubs, bushes and trees where someone can hide. Stay away from athletic fields after dark. Many campuses provide escort services so you never have to walk alone at night. Work out with a friend as opposed to going to the gym by yourself. If you do go somewhere alone, always tell a friend where you're going and when you plan to return.

Be better informed, connected and send anonymous tips to our department by downloading the "MYPD" application in the iPhone or Android marketplace. After downloading the application search for "New Canaan" and get connected.

You can contact me directly at 203-594-3512 or via e-mail at Leon.Krolikowski@newcanaanct.gov