Trick-or-Tech: Here’s How Technology Can Help Manage Campus Safety On Halloween

Picture of Mary Kate McGrath By Mary Kate McGrath

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campus safety on halloween 

Campus Safety on Halloween 2017

On October 31st, Campus Safety officials are likely to be on high alert. Halloween poses a variety of security risks for colleges; the holiday is notorious for increased instances of vandalism, and alcohol-related injuries are also common. Costumes and theft pose potential dangers as well. The security risks may vary depending on the location of the institution, but for emergency managers in higher education, preparing for any scenario is essential. There are many ways that campus officials can plan for increased security risks around holiday activities. On Halloween, campus officials are able to leverage communication technology to keep students safe.

In the United States, crime rates generally spike on Halloween. James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University, found that crime is highest on three holidays – New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, and Halloween. However, the extent of this spike varies greatly depending on the region and day that the holiday falls on. If October 31st lands on a weekend, people are more likely to stay out later, dress up, and consume alcohol, and reported crime rates do tend to be higher.

However, the holiday’s mythology, role in popular culture, and certain urban myths might be contributing to an inflated sense of danger.  Many law enforcement professionals argue the day feels no more or less dangerous than any other, but that doesn’t mean preparedness isn’t beneficial.  Nor does it mean that residents feel any safer. A study in 2015 found that only 37% of adults don’t have any safety concerns on Halloween, including vandalism, drunk driving, and theft. Students might be feeling nervous on the holiday, and technology can empower them to manage their own safety as well.

What Are The On-Campus Risks?

Halloween crime rates might draw concern from students and safety professionals in higher education. It’s important to understand the genuine risks on the holiday, and vandalism is reportedly a top concern when it comes to Halloween related incidents. According to reports by the Highway Loss Data Institute, Triple AAA, and insurance providers, cars are twice as likely to be vandalized on Halloween. Campus buildings and other public spaces are susceptible to as well. While property damage might not be of the utmost concern to all students, campus safety officials can encourage campus residents to put in an anonymous report or tip regarding any instances of defacement they witness.

One of the greatest health threats on Halloween is pedestrian-related incidents, and all students should use caution when traveling on foot whether it’s on or off campus. If possible, campus safety officials should be available for students hoping to avoid or report potential drunk driving scenarios. Luckily, for each of these risks, there is relevant technology available for campus safety officials looking to minimize student emergencies.

Personal-Safety Apps

The most valuable technology to boost campus safety on Halloween for each individual is a personal safety app. In a survey of  1,000 millennials conducted by Rave Mobile Safety, 76% had avoided an activity due to safety concerns and 90% said they felt safer when they have their mobile smartphone (click here for more data collected in this survey).

The next generation, Generation Z, is even more likely to rely on technology. A personal security device is a simple way for officials and students to increase campus security, especially on a holiday with safety risks. The Rave Guardian app or similar technology can increase security for anyone roaming on or off campus on October 31st, allowing students to inform friends of their location and contact the appropriate authorities quickly in an emergency.

Blue-light phone boxes offer a similar connection to campus authorities and have been a mainstay on college campuses for decades. The blue boxes, which allow students to push a button and contact police, were once essential for keeping students safe while traveling through deserted campus areas. In lieu of these boxes, which are often out-of-date and not dependable, personal safety apps provide a fast and convenient way to contact someone in case of emergency.  They also offer more versatility and functionality, allowing the student to set a timer for their arrival and make sure friends are safe while en route.

At Kenyon College, a rural university in Gambier, Ohio, the Rave Guardian app helps students on and off campus stay safe. If students prefer, location services can be turned off and the app can be used as a simple, fast way to contact 911. “You can be out on the bike path or on the highway and use this app,” Ronald Griggs, Vice President for Library and Information Services at the university, said. “There are a lot of advantages to using it even off campus. Your car might break down on the side of the road. This app is important for an institution in a rural environment.”

In addition to keeping students safe while they are out for the evening of Halloween, an app like Rave Guardian can provide a fast way to contact help should a car-related emergency arise. The immediacy of a personal safety app is well-suited to the risks that a holiday like Halloween can pose for young people in a higher education setting.

Anonymous Tip-Texting

Crime on Halloween is often related to vandalism and theft. Students might feel hesitant to report any wrongdoing to the authorities, especially among peers. In general, younger people feel more comfortable texting than speaking on the phone. If campus police have an anonymous tip-texting line and students are able to submit information to campus authorities in an anonymous, direct way, crimes are less likely to go unreported. “If a student sees vandalism and doesn’t want to get involved, they can alert us and send a picture,” said Kenyon Director of Campus Safety, Robert Hooper.  “We’ll now have more eyes out there watching, and we can be anywhere on campus in under two minutes.”

Tip-texting functionality will not only help keep students safe and secure, it can also cut down on the response time to instances of vandalism, reducing the amount and cost of damage to school or student property.

Safety Profiles

If students fill out an emergency profile, campus police and other law enforcement personnel will be more prepared to respond to any situation that might arise on Hallow’s eve. It might make students feel more secure to let authorities have access to any prior health conditions, allergies, or pertinent information in the case of an emergency. The information provided can prove valuable in a crisis, but it may also provide a sense of security on an evening where students and staff might be feeling tense.

Emergency Notifications

Emergency notification systems can help campus officials keep students informed of key information during the Halloween season. While notifications are primarily used for more urgent messages such as severe weather events, they can also be used to issue any important notices in advance of October 31st. For example, many institutions banned clown costumes in 2016 following reports of violent crimes committed by individuals wearing clown attire. If certain costumes or costume accessories are prohibited on campus, it might be valuable to distribute this information to the student body before the holiday. If an emergency situation does arise during the holiday, notification technology can inform faculty, students, and staff can be informed quickly.

Campus safety on Halloween presents a variety of potential risks. It’s helpful to know that technology is available to manage these risks, and can be used to respond to any situation that might arise in a timely manner. With these tools in hand, everyone on campus can enjoy the true meaning of Halloween – candy, preferably in large quantities.

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Mary Kate McGrath

Written by Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.

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