A Bright Idea for Those in College Towns

Have you ever been walking home alone at night? Did you feel the least bit nervous? Maybe you even looked around and thought “if something bad happened tonight, it’d happen here.” Well statistics show that you are right. You are not alone. Not so much in a physical sense, but that feeling is one shared amongst a great number of college students around America. Robbery, assault, a lot can happen on a low lit street in a college town. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, most literally. There is a simple solution that anyone can take part of. Because what college town residents need to be safer, for off campus travel and living, is more light at night.

From previous projects about safety on campus, I began to wonder: “My school is making this effort to keep students safe, but is it working?” After interviewing multiple students attending Western Washington University, I came to find that many find campus safe, but common trends in concerns arose when talking about being off campus. The first concern expressed by students was the time of day. The later the time gets, the more uneasy students felt. Next was the lighting of where they travel followed by the distance from campus. The time of day, the students distance from campus or home, and the amount of light given by street lamps all worked together to build the overall concern of a surveyed student. However, an equally large concern came out of only half of the students. Female students felt that they were a larger target for crimes around Bellingham despite any other concerns expressed. However, not only are college students at risk, but so are the people living near the college.

Burglary has, for a very long time, been the most commonly committed crime both on and off campuses. According to criminal justice forums: “Larceny-theft hits the top of the crime list, far outweighing any other crime. The numbers of larceny-theft in this country are staggering — more than 7 million reported each year, making up almost sixty percent of all reported crimes.” Western has had multiple on-campus incidents. According to the US Department of Education, almost 30 reports of burglary have been made over the last three years In Western Washington. That’s almost above a crime per month on Western’s campus alone. However, this is not to mention the crimes committed off campus property. I found house burglaries and muggings have also been an issue around the town of Bellingham just from the notification system given to students. According to a police study, burglary is the most common crime committed. However, colleges have made steps to help prevent some of these crimes.

Most colleges have Resident Advisors, students who are paid and trained to help keep students living in dorms safe. These resident advisors in most cases did help their community safe, however these RA’s only work within the area of the colleges dorm. Some schools go the extra mile and form groups outside of the resident advisor community. Here at my current college, Western Washington University, there is a school run program known as the green coats. These green coats are trained students that escort students, who request help, from point A to B within campus. Now although these groups are a step up in student safety, both groups only work within campus property while the concerns of students lie outside the boundaries of their school. In addition, these groups are often required to take record of the students, which means that a student cannot use their service one hundred percent privately. Fortunately, there is a solution that still remains possible.

By implementing more lighting to streets where crime is common, Western Washington University would experience less crime and students can rest assured. Light will serve to deter those who could consider committing a crime by keeping them easily visible. While students who are travelling will have an easier time of avoiding what they see as possibly dangerous situations regardless of gender, a main concern of most students. In addition, better lighting on streets can prevent crime before it happens, unlike student groups who cannot intervene until something happens. Now some would argue that installing street lamps would take a lot of time and money. But, who said the light needs to be from street lamps? There are plenty of cheaper options to bring light to a street. With that said, anyone in town could help. So If you live in a college town, helping light your street could keep others and yourself safe from harm.