Keep Your Stuff Safe on Campus

Though I graduated from college a couple years ago, my college roommates and I are still crazy close. (After all, we did survive the school cafeteria together.) During our days of dorm living, we shared everything—from clothes and class notes to the latest juicy gossip. But with so many people in such a tiny living space, it was tough to keep track of my stuff.

I never felt this more than during my junior year, when I was the victim of campus theft. While I was interviewing for a summer internship in another state, my roommates had a bunch of people over to our place. After I got back from my trip, it took me a while to realize things were missing: At first, I couldn’t find the digital camera I’d left sitting on my desk; later, it was the shoulder bag filled with my class projects, iPod and—worst of all—master keys to two university buildings. I had my friends ask around, but no one would fess up to the crime.

While being surrounded by people in classrooms, cafeterias, common rooms and dorm halls is great for your social life, it can make for a risky situation when it comes to your stuff. In fact, according to the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool, burglary was the crime most often reported on the campuses of four-year private and public schools in 2012. After my things were taken, I started to get serious about security.

Keep your property personal

If you live in a dorm like I did, your stuff is probably protected under your parents’ homeowners insurance, but you might want to have them check their coverage if you’re in off-campus housing. (If their insurance doesn’t cover you, or only takes care of a small percentage, think about checking out renters insurance.) Ask university officials if there are theft prevention programs in place to protect you, and in the meantime, consider taking the following steps to safeguard your stuff:

  • Lock your dorm and bedroom doors and keep valuables out of plain sight. If you leave your dorm room unlocked, you make it easy for thieves to walk off with your favorite toys.
  • Consider engraving identifying information on expensive items, such as your computer, suggests the Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS). Though labeling last night’s leftovers won’t help you recover your lo mein after it’s stolen from the fridge, labeling your valuables can help you get them back if stolen.
  • Take pictures of your valuables (and their serial numbers) so they can be identified later. Who knew cameras come in handy for things other than concerts and road trips?
  • Avoid loaning neighbors or classmates the keys to your place, and make sure direct access is restricted to your roommates.
  • Don’t leave your personal property unattended in study areas, cafeterias, libraries or other public places. If you choose to use your car as a storage locker, keep important items stowed in your trunk, SUDPS suggests.
  • Take valuables with you if leaving campus during a holiday break or long weekend.
  • Keep bikes or scooters locked to a stationary bike rack when you’re inside—even if you think you’ll only be a minute.

If you think you were the victim of theft, don’t hesitate to turn to a resident assistant, campus security or the local police.

(Updated July 2014)
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