One of my blog followers is involved with the website Online Colleges. This is not as strange as it sounds because my forthcoming novel, Every Last Secret, is set on a college campus with a campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, as the protagonist. Anyway, this blog follower wanted to alert me to their post, “The 10 Most Shocking College Crimes of All Time.” She thought, rightly, that I’d be interested and that readers of my blog might be interested also. You can find it here.
The crew at Online Colleges has done a good job in sorting through the crimes on college campuses, but I’m not sure I agree with all their selections. I think there are a couple of more shocking crimes that I’d substitute for some on their list. You’ll find these shocking enough, though, I’m sure.
One place where they really went right was in including Ted Bundy on the list, even though the bulk of his crimes took place off-campus. Most of Bundy’s killings were never included in any campus crime report because they didn’t happen on campus, but he cruised campuses to pick out his victims and make contact with them. Bundy, like other sexual predators, looked on campuses the way a weasel might look on a hen house, as a convenient larder happily stocked with his favorite prey.
This is a problem that haunts the nightmares of campus police and others responsible for controlling crime on campus—the concentration of nubile young people of all genders, newly independent of parental control and anxious to assert that independence in every way they can. It too often leads to heavy drinking, date rape, and more violent forms of sexual assault among students. It also makes easy pickings for sexual predators.
Campuses have to walk a fine line between going overboard with warnings to the point that students no longer listen—if they ever did in the first place—and being so laissez-faire that students are unaware of any dangers. And ultimately, when students leave the campus, the campus police can no longer protect them. They have no jurisdiction off campus.
With the exception of a few episodes that hit the media big-time, such as the Sandusky affair at Penn State or the Virginia Tech shootings, most people are unaware of crime on college campuses, but it’s been going on for a long time and is only likely to continue. Especially the campus crimes that don’t happen on campus itself but started there, like Bundy’s.
What do you think? Are campuses too lax? Or do they go overboard with the warnings? Is there ultimately any way in a free society to protect students, faculty, and staff against the kinds of crimes in the "10 Most Shocking College Crimes" list--the sexual predators and the arbitrary shooters of many?