As Kansas University students this week walked to classes on Jayhawk Boulevard, they likely encountered messages about being safe during spring break next week.
Members of the Jayhawk Buddy System and KU and Lawrence police officers spent time Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Wescoe Beach giving students tips on what precautions to take, whether they head to a Florida beach or stay in Lawrence.
“We’re trying to raise awareness here,” said Frank DeSalvo, associate vice provost for student affairs. “It doesn’t really matter whether they’re staying in Lawrence or going back to their hometown or going to some destination. What we want to be more specific about staying safe is to employ protective behavior.”
DeSalvo said KU officials were stressing practices such as urging students to go out in groups, check in with each other through the evening and make sure everyone returns safely.
Police officers were urging female students to be vigilant in protecting themselves against sexual assault. Authorities in northeast Kansas for several years around school breaks have spread a message about sexual assault safety awareness because of an ongoing investigation of 14 serial rapes in Lawrence and Manhattan that have occurred since 2000. The last sexual assault connected to the investigation occurred during a Thanksgiving break in November 2008 in Lawrence.
Rob Neff, a Lawrence police neighborhood resource officer, said police urged students to secure their homes, be aware of their surroundings, stay together with friends and call 911 in an emergency.
Neff and DeSalvo offered these tips for students and families during spring break:
Before you leave:
• Make sure all windows and doors are securely locked, including sliding doors.
• Have someone, preferably close neighbors, watch your home, including collecting mail and newspapers daily.
• Install a security system or other safety features like timers for lights.
While you’re gone:
• Travel with friends in a group. Don’t go anywhere alone with someone you do not know well. Check the U.S. State Department’s website, travel.state.gov, for tips on international travel and warnings.
• At a hotel, try not to stay in a room on the ground floor, and always makes sure all doors and windows are locked whether you are in or out of the room.
“Everyone should have a key card. Don’t leave it unlocked,” Neff said.
• If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Drink as much water as possible.
• Do not leave your drink unattended or accept a drink from someone you don’t know unless you see it poured by a bartender.
• Lock your doors and windows.
• Keep vehicles locked and do not keep valuable items in them.
“A lot of crimes are crimes of opportunity. They’ll just walk along and try to find an opening,” Neff said.
• Call police if you notice anything or anyone strange in your neighborhood.