People come and go from dorm housing at all hours making it hard to track who belongs in the dorm and who doesn’t. In the last report from Campus Safety and Security, the number of annual reported criminal offenses on U.S. college campuses was 38,100.
Avoid becoming a victim of dorm crime by knowing the most common dangers so you can protect yourself and your belongings. The biggest safety and security concerns about living in a dorm and being on campus are:
- Theft - Burglary is the most common campus crime with 12,523 reported incidents. Robberies amount to 2,859 and 5,726 motor vehicle thefts were reported.
- Personal safety issues - On-campus physical or sexual assaults account for over 16,000 incidents.
- Identity theft - People ages 20 to 29 are statistically more likely to lose money to identity theft than other age groups.
- Getting around - Issues like rideshare safety, safety when walking alone or at parties are another big issue college students face.
These statistics only account for incidents that were reported and may be higher. Check with your school’s office of safety and security to learn about any security concerns that are happening on your specific campus. Many schools, especially the larger ones, have significant resources dedicated to keeping students safe and often publish statistics that illuminate the biggest safety concerns on campus.
Tips for Keeping Your Dorm Safe
Your dorm room is your new home and the place where you keep your valuables. It’s also a gathering spot for you and your roommate’s friends. Here are some ideas for keeping yourself and your property secure.
Lock up or hide your valuables
Thieves are opportunists. The easier it is for them to take something, the more likely they’ll steal it. Paige Abbassi, a business major at the University of Southern California, shares, “Theft can happen so fast. I literally got up and went across the hall to ask a friend for something. I didn’t think of closing my door because I could see my room down the hall. When I came back, my phone was missing off my bed. Luckily my laptop was on the floor with all my books and not as obvious.”
Adding layers of protection is sometimes all you need to do to make sure they keep moving to their next target. Paige now closes and locks her doors, even if just for a minute. “It’s a weird feeling knowing you have to be on guard all the time but it’s reality. I’m now more aware that thieves are looking for easy opportunities to take something,” she said. Some ways to add layers of protection include:
- Keep valuables out of sight to prevent thieves from targeting them.
- Add a lock to items or store them in a dorm safe or a dorm security locker.
- Keep your valuables out of sight and away from windows or doors.
- Make a habit of putting your valuables away in a drawer, under the bed, your safe or a dorm security locker when you leave the room, even if just for a few minutes.
Obey access rules for the exterior of the building
Keep uninvited guests out of your dorm building. Don’t lend anyone your ID to swipe themselves in. Don’t hold doors open for strangers or let in people you don’t know. If you notice the main door is held open with a makeshift doorstop, close it.
Keep your room door locked
Agree with your roommates to always keep the dorm room door and windows locked. It only takes a few seconds for a thief to take thousands of dollars of expensive items like your laptop, iPad, jewelry and even expensive school books.
Don’t leave valuables out in plain sight
Thieves are opportunists and are looking for items to steal. Hide your cash, purse or wallet, jewelry, laptop and any other important items when not in use. “I trust my roomie but when she has people over, I put my stuff away. Leaving my wallet and electronics laying around is too much temptation,” says USC student Paige Abbassi.
Keep an inventory of all your valuables
Keep photos and serial numbers of your valuables. In the unfortunate case that you or your roommates become victims of a dorm theft, being able to provide campus police with a list of stolen items and their descriptions may increase the odds that they will be recovered.
Should a loss occur, having insurance can help you quickly replace stolen items without a huge cost to you. Your parents’ homeowners insurance policy may cover your dorm room valuables at no extra cost. College Student Insurance provides dorm room policies to cover your valuables.
Personal Safety In Dorms & On Campus
Now that you’ve locked down your valuables, it’s time to address your personal safety. Being alert at all times and listening to your instincts when things don’t feel right are a good start. Here's what else you can do.
Remember the buddy system
Check in with someone you trust before you go somewhere alone or take a friend along. If you have a guest in your dorm, let your roommate or a trusted friend know there’s a guest coming over, who they are and when.
Lock your door even when you’re in your room
Dorms are social places. But leaving your door open or unlocked exposes you to unwanted visitors. If you’re feeling social, go hang out in the lounge or communal area and make sure your room is locked. Your dorm room should be your sanctuary and not a revolving door of unannounced visitors.
Stay alert when catching a ride
Reports of rideshare crimes are on the rise. Follow rideshare safety tips like identifying your driver and vehicle before getting on board. Send someone you trust notification of your trip so they can track where you’re going in real-time.
Guard against identity theft prevention
Having your identity stolen is a nightmare. If someone steals your favorite watch you can replace it. But if someone has your identifying information, they can wreak havoc for years and ruin your credit. Follow these steps to protect yourself:
- Don’t leave personally-identifying materials visible in your dorm, in the library, etc.
- Lock up important documents.
- Use unique, strong passwords on all of your online accounts and your computer.
- Never use shared computers for personal matters like banking.
Tools That Protect You & Your Property
There are many safety tools and security devices available that are easy to set up and keep you and your property safe. Here are some you should consider:
Cameras can help you catch the perpetrator if there’s a crime problem in your campus. Only consider this possibility it’s not against campus rules to have a college dorm hidden cam and your roommate agrees to it. Otherwise, it’s a violation of privacy and could get you in trouble. Wireless security cameras are your best bet because they’re affordable and easy to set up. The Wyze Cam is recommended because it’s easy to mount and under $50.
A dorm safe is essential to keep valuables like money, small devices and personal documents safe. Heavy, low profile safes that have more than one way to lock or unlock them (in case you lose the key) are best. This one from Amazon includes a passcode, overriding keys, can be mounted and is available in different sizes. For more, check out our round-up of the best home safes.
A standard heavy-duty MasterLock is a good multipurpose security tool. You can also get laptop locks or specialized locks for many high-value items. Here are some of the best on the market:
Door and window alarms
If you’re in a ground floor room, you might be nervous about someone coming in through your windows. Door/window alarms are typically part of a full dorm room alarm system, but they are also available as standalone products, such as these cheap and easy to install sensors from Noopel that scare off would-be intruders with a loud alarm.
Personal safety devices
For maximum peace of mind, you might consider buying an additional personal security device like a self-defense key chain or even smart jewelry that lets you call for help at the touch of a button. Many of these items are small enough to fit in your backpack or purse.