According to the organization Citizens Against Crime, a crime against a person, such as murder, rape, robbery or assault, occurs every seventeen seconds in the United States, and a property crime, such as burglary, larceny or vehicle theft, occurs every two seconds.
As these statistics show, crime is all around us, even in Grand Rapids, Michigan, even on Calvin's campus. If you take the proper precautions, you can decrease the chance that you will be victimized by a criminal. While we don't want you to live in constant fear of crime, it is important for you to be aware of crime and the steps you can take to decrease the chance of being victimized.
In order for you to effectively deter crime you must know what the current crime trends are. Keep informed by reading the Campus Safety report in the Chimes and on this website. Campus Safety will also occasionally post Crime Alert Bulletins around campus describing serious offenses that have occurred on or near campus. Calvin, in cooperation with national legislation, also compiles crime statistics for certain offenses and reports them to the FBI for inclusion in a national report on crime on college campuses.
In addition, pay attention to the local news as serious crime trends in the community will be highlighted there. If you live off campus, you can join a Neighborhood Watch. This organization will inform you of crime trends in your area.
Remember that crimes occur only when criminals have the opportunity to commit crime. It is up to you to take that opportunity away from the criminal. Defeat the criminal before the criminal activity actually begins. To help you do this, we have given you tips on preventive steps you can take before you are victimized, and also steps you can take to prevent the crime from getting worse.
Crimes can generally be broken down into two categories: crimes against property and crimes against a person. We will look at each of these categories and tell you what steps you should take to attempt to prevent becoming a victim.
Calvin College and the surrounding neighborhood go through periods when they are targeted by bicycle thieves.
Here are steps you can take to deter bicycle theft, and if it does occur, to help in the possible recovery of your bicycle:
- Lock your bicycle. Always secure your lock through the frame as well as both wheels. Do not merely lock your bicycle to itself, but to something solid. Also, make sure that your lock is adequate for the task. Bike thieves often check out bike racks looking for "bargains" --the best bike with the cheapest looking lock.
- Register your bicycle with Campus Safety. All bikes parked on campus must be registered and must display a bike registration sticker. Bikes may also be registered through the Grand Rapids Fire Department. There is a fire station just west of campus at 2941 Burton Street. By registering your bicycle, the police or Campus Safety will know you are the owner if your bike is stolen and recovered.
- Record the serial number of your bicycle. If your bicycle is stolen, report the theft to the police and give them the serial number. If the bicycle is recovered it can then be returned to you.
In recent years Calvin students have been the targets for thieves who steal textbooks in order to sell them back. They may also be in search of other valuables students leave in their book bags. Here are some steps you can take to prevent this:
- Always put your name in your book. This will also be very helpful if your book is misplaced.
- Avoid leaving your books unattended, including in the library and on the racks by the dining halls.
Protecting your vehicle
Vehicles in parking lots always present a target for thieves. Here are some steps you can take to diminish the chance that your car will be broken into or stolen:
- Lock your car whenever it is unattended, both on and off campus.
- Do not leave expensive property, such as CD cases, purses, radar detectors, cellular phones and portable stereos in plain view in your car. Lock them in your trunk or take them into your residence. Cover up conspicuous stereo equipment. Remember that thieves target after-market stereo equipment, not factory installed equipment.
- If you have expensive stereo equipment in your car, consider investing in a car alarm. If you have a car alarm, turn it on.
- Record the brand, model numbers and serial numbers of all electronic equipment installed in your car. In the event of theft, give this information to the police. If the equipment is recovered it can then be returned to you. Also engrave your driver's license number on this equipment. An engraver is available for your use at Campus Safety.
- If you live off campus, make every attempt to park your car off the street, if possible. If not, park in a well lighted area.
- If you will be leaving your car on campus over Christmas or Spring Break, park it in the East Beltline parking lot or by Knollcrest East.
- Engrave your Vehicle Identification Number (found on your registration or under the windshield on the driver's side) on the doors, windows, fenders and trunk lids of your car. This will prevent theft, because the thief will need to replace these parts before selling the car. An engraver is available for your use at Campus Safety.
- Use a steering wheel lock when your car is parked. While these devices can be defeated, a thief may decide it's not worth the effort.
Protecting your residence
You can take several steps to protect the belongings that you have in your residence. If you live in a residence hall, these steps are as follows:
- The majority of thefts that occur in dorm rooms and apartments happen when the residents are not in but the door is unlocked. Lock the door to your room whenever you leave, even if it is just for a few minutes. Also, lock your door when you will be showering or sleeping. If you live on the ground floor, lock your windows. If you discover that your door or window does not lock, leave a maintenance request to have it repaired. If you live in Knollcrest East and have a sliding glass door, secure it further by placing a length of wood in the track on the floor to stop it from opening.
- Don't leave exterior doors or inner lobby doors propped open when they should be closed. If you find one open, close it.
- Record the serial numbers of valuable objects you have in your room. Engrave such objects with your driver's license number. An engraver is available at the Campus Safety desk for use by students.
- Do not leave cash, credit cards or checks in unlocked desks or cabinets.
- Mark clothes with a laundry pen or thread and needle in a spot other than the label.
- Do not allow people you do not know well to stay overnight in your room.
If you see a suspicious person, notify Campus Safety immediately by calling 33333. Be prepared to give a description of the person, and tell where you last saw the person and the direction he or she was headed if applicable.
If you live off campus, take the following steps to protect your valuables:
- Lock the doors and windows to your residence whenever you are away and when you are in your residence and may not hear someone enter, such as when you are sleeping. If you have a sliding glass door, secure it further by placing a length of wood in the track on the floor to stop it from opening.
- If your doors do not already have one, talk to your landlord about getting a deadbolt.
- Do not leave valuables and expensive equipment in plain view from the outside.
- If possible, get a dog. If this is not possible, make it appear as if you have a dog. Get a large dog bowl and large chain and keep them in plain view.
- When you are away from your residence, leave your interior lights on. Use a timer if you will be gone for more than one day.
- If there is a Neighborhood Watch in your area, join it. This organization will be able to keep you up-to-date on criminal activity in your area.
- If you will be gone for several days, inform a neighbor you can trust. Stop delivery of your mail and newspaper. Use light timers in several rooms.
- Record the serial numbers of all your valuables. Engrave your valuables with your driver's license number. An engraver is available for your use at Calvin Campus Safety.
- If you have an answering machine, don't leave a message that indicates you are away from home. Simply state that you are unavailable.
- Use outside lights at each entrance to your residence. Make sure the lights are turned off during the day.
- If you see a suspicious person, notify the local police. You can reach the police by calling 911 from anywhere in Grand Rapids and Kent County. Be prepared to give a description of the person, and tell where you last saw the person and the direction he or she was headed at the time.
- If you do arrive home to find that your residence has been broken into, do not enter, but go to a public phone or neighbor's house to call the police.
Crimes against your person
Unfortunately, criminals sometimes do not target property, but target people instead. Make sure you take these steps to try to prevent these types of crimes from happening to you.
Protecting yourself in your home
- Keep your doors locked, even when you are in the residence. Do not allow anyone in until you know who that person is. If the person claims to be dorm maintenance or a utility worker, verify that by asking for identification. People who have legitimate reasons to be there should not balk at this.
- If you have an answering machine, don't put your names on your recording. Also, if you and your roommates are female, consider having a male friend leave your outgoing message on your machine.
- If you are receiving threatening or obscene phone calls, contact the college operator if you live on campus or the local police if you live off campus.
- If you notice a person attempting to gain entry to your residence or attempting to look into your residence, call Campus Safety at 33333 if you live on campus or the police at 911 if you live off campus. Be prepared to give a description of the person, and tell where you last saw the person and the direction he or she was headed in at the time.
Protecting yourself in your car
- Park in well lighted, busy areas. Avoid dark, secluded areas.
- Always lock your car, even if you are in it at the time.
- As you approach your car, be aware of other people around. If you see someone loitering near your car, do not go to it; instead, walk to an area where there are other people.
- Have your car keys ready. Make sure you don't have to stand by your car fumbling for your keys.
- Before you enter your car, make sure that no intruder is in the car waiting for you.
- If you see another motorist stranded on the road, do not stop to help. Drive to the nearest phone and notify the police.
- While driving, keep valuables out of sight, and not on the seat next to you.
- Consider getting a cellular phone so you can call for assistance in an emergency.
- If you are stranded in your car, do not accept help from anyone. If someone offers help, stay in your car and ask him or her to call police. Do not accept help from the police unless they are in uniform and driving a marked patrol car.
- If your car is carjacked, give the carjacker your car. Your life and health are worth more than a car.
Protecting yourself at automatic teller machines (ATMs)
In recent years ATM's and their users have become a target for thieves. Here are some tips you should know to prevent yourself from becoming a victim at an ATM.
- If at all possible, avoid using ATM's at night. If you must use one at night, select one with a lot of people around, that is well lighted, and is not in a secluded, low visibility area.
- Try to have a friend accompany you when using an ATM.
- Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you.
- Complete your transaction as quickly as possible, and do not flaunt your cash.
Protecting yourself when you are out
- Don't carry a lot of cash. Women should carry money somewhere other than their purses. Men should carry their wallets in an inside coat pocket or a front pants pocket.
- Don't be flashy. Expensive clothes and jewelry can make you a target for thieves.
- Avoid shortcuts through dark, secluded areas. Stay where other people are around. Avoid areas where thieves may be hiding.
- Do not walk alone. If you are on campus you can call for an escort between dusk and dawn by dialing "6-6452" from any campus phone. If you jog, do not jog alone.
- Walk with confidence. Thieves are more likely to single out those who appear hesitant or unsure of themselves.
- When walking to your house or car, have your keys ready so you will spend as little time as possible in the open.
- If you are being harassed, loudly say, "Leave me alone!" If that doesn't stop the harassment, continue to attract people's attention and head towards a store or another place where other people are around.
- If you are confronted, give up your valuables. Nothing is as important as your life.
- Try to stay out of arm's reach of the attacker. Don't let the attacker move you into an alley or car. Your best defense if the attacker persists is to scream and run.
- Consider purchasing a personal alarm or a pepper spray for defensive purposes.
- Look into self defense classes. Calvin offers a self defense class for women through the Physical Education Department. Other classes may be available throughout the community.
Protecting against sexual assault
If you are being victimized by a person who is attempting to sexually assault you, take the following steps to stop the assault from progressing. Remember that the goal is survival.
- Stall for time. Figure out your options. Each situation is different. Decide if you will fight, try to talk your way out of the assault, scream, or, if necessary for your survival, submit.
- If you fight, hit hard and fast. Target the eyes and groin.
- Try to dissuade the attacker from continuing. Tell him you have a sexually transmitted disease, tell him you are menstruating, urinate, vomit, or do anything to discourage the attacker.
Protecting against stalking
In recent years society has become more aware of the dangers of stalking. Stalking, under Michigan law, is repeated harassment that could or does cause the victim to feel intimidated, threatened or frightened. While it is difficult to prevent stalking from occurring, you can take steps to prevent it from continuing.
- If you are a victim of stalking, report this to the local police department, even if you do not know if you will be filing charges.
- Gather information to help your case, such as taped recordings of threatening phone calls, license plate state and number, description of vehicle, a personal description, and a detailed listing of any contacts the stalker makes with you.
- Follow up in court. Take out an anti-stalking order at your local circuit court, and/or file a civil lawsuit against the stalker for damages resulting from the stalker's behavior.
- If the stalking continues after the anti-stalking order has been sent, contact the police.
No method of crime prevention is guaranteed to work 100% of the time. However, in taking these steps, you are removing opportunity from would be criminals, and you will be less likely to be victimized. Be smart. Learn these steps, and make them a habit in your life.