I am going to start this the way my 20-year-old daughter started her phone call to me several weeks ago. With a phrase that as a parent makes your heart pound the moment you hear the tone in your child’s voice even before the words come. “I’m OK, everyone is ok but . . .”
This is how my daughter a junior at UC Berkeley, told me that she and two girl friends had been mugged the night before while walking home from her work study job on campus. No one was hurt badly, but there was a struggle and physical contact. The girls were frightened, freaked out, but it could have been worse. Much worse. My daughter and her friends called 911 and made a full report of the crime, but I also encouraged my daughter to tell everyone she knew what happened, including posting it on Facebook. To let people know it can and does happen.
Which it turns out is advice given in a brochure by the Berkeley Police Department (www.cityofberkeley.info/police), written by the Crime and Violence Prevention Center at the California Attorney General’s Office and downloadable at www.safestate.org. Other advice, from the Berkeley PD, includes carrying your phone in your hand to have it at the ready, and separating your valuables and ID so that if you are mugged, you don’t lose everything in one grab. Keys, ID and credit cards in pockets, phone in hand — not wallet and purse inside a backpack, as was the case with my daughter’s friend who was beaten up in a struggle over the backpack.
College students, our children, wearing the backpacks we bought them, filled with the latest technology, computers, cell phones, iPads and cash cards loaded so they won’t want for anything, are targets of crime. We unknowingly make them prime suspects for urban crime. According to a story on Here and Now, “University campuses, cities and retailers around the country — and around the world — are dealing with a massive up-tick in thefts of Apple products. The crime trend has become so pronounced, it’s been given a name: “Apple picking.
I urge you, as a parent, if you do not know about this new wave of crime, or the crime statistics of your child’s university, you should. So should your child. And I say this not as one of those helicopter moms. I know that it is our children who are attending these universities, who live both on and off campus and who ultimately need to take responsibility for their own safety. But as parents, it is our job to help them be as aware and prepared as possible. And as parents, it is up to us to hold the universities and the leaders of surrounding communities responsible for the safety of our children. Let’s face it, our bank accounts are bigger, that makes us influential. We need to get involved, if not in making safety one the reasons our children choose a college campus but certainly in their safety once they do decide.
We need to start by asking questions about safety both on campus and in the surrounding communities while on tours of prospective universities. We need to insure that news of crime on college campuses is public, widely available and of concern to all involved in the college experience, our children, the other parents and the educators. We need to insist that crime against college students is a statistic that universities feel responsible for and take pride in keeping low. We can do this now, while high school seniors are touring campuses, meeting with university staff and making a choice for their future. Speak up and let these institutions know that the likelihood of our child becoming the victim of a crime while in their care and tutelage is as important to us as the number of Nobel Laureates, or the ratio of professors to students.