Kansas University students shouldn't overly fret about their personal safety on campus and throughout Lawrence. But they should understand how to avoid becoming a victim, authorities said.
"This isn't utopia, but we do the best we can to keep everyone safe," KU Public Safety Lt. Schuyler Bailey said. "We want you to know that you have to take an active part in your own safety."
KU Public Safety officials give presentations at student orientation classes during the summer and at similar classes at the beginning of the school year. Students learn what types of crimes are committed on campus and tips on crime prevention.
"You have to remember, it's an open campus, an open community," Bailey said. "People pass through, and crime does occur."
The most common crimes among students involve property. Theft of backpacks, purses and laptop computers is common, Bailey said, and the easiest way to avoid it is to eliminate the opportunity for thieves.
"It can be difficult to pick up all your stuff if you're just going into the (library) stacks for another book," he said. "But it also guarantees you're not going to be a victim."
Items can be stolen in seconds. Leaving a residence hall door open for a few moments even while just visiting a friend down the hall is an invitation for theft, Bailey said.
"It doesn't take long for someone to walk in, pick something up and then take off," he said.
Despite being the most common campus crimes, burglaries and thefts on campus are down way down. In 2000, KU saw 380 reported incidents of theft down 35 percent from 1997. Burglaries also dropped precipitously 55 percent in the same time span, according to an annual crime statistics report.
Crime as a whole dropped 12 percent on campus in 2000, the fourth year in a row for which KU has shown a declining rate. Other crimes affecting personal safety decreased, including assault, which dropped 28 percent after a slight increase in 1999.
The number of campus rapes, however, rose to four last year after only one reported rape in 1999. And although the number didn't make a statistical difference in the campus crime rate, authorities expressed confidence that violent crime was preventable.
KU students don't confine themselves to campus, however, and crime can follow when they migrate throughout Lawrence.
Again, most occurrences of crime are property crimes particularly vehicle burglaries, said Lawrence Police Sgt. Mike Pattrick.
Mirroring the trend seen at KU, burglaries in Lawrence both of vehicles and homes decreased by 13 percent in 2000.
Self-defense items, such as pepper spray, are legal on campus and in Lawrence, but Bailey and Pattrick urged caution for those who chose to purchase such items.