Lock Doors, Stay Informed as Winter Break Approaches

GW students should exercise caution as they prepare to leave campus at the end of the semester.

GW students should lock their doors and take any valuables with them as they prepare to leave campus for winter break. (William Atkins/ GW Today)
December 06, 2017

By Kristen Mitchell

Before leaving George Washington University at the end of fall semester, students should take steps to protect themselves and their possessions while they are away. RaShall Brackney, chief of the GW Police Department, has some safety tips and advice for students as they leave campus or navigate Washington, D.C., leading up to winter break.

Tip #1: Lock your doors
All students living in residence halls should make sure their rooms are secure to ward off potential thieves. Lock your doors and windows, and either secure or take any expensive items, like laptops or iPads, with you. Don’t leave anything valuable out in the open where someone might be able to see it.

Although there are safety measures in place to assist with securing residence halls, these measures are only effective if they are implemented, Ms. Brackney said.

“Prepare a safety checklist of valuable items in your residence hall to include make, model and serial numbers, and if you have a SafePlace safe, secure them inside,” she said. “Before leaving the campus, designate a roommate to insure exterior doors are locked and securely closed.”

Tip #2: Keep an eye on your wallet
A wallet stuffed with cash and giftcards can make you a target during the holiday season. With holiday shopping in full swing, opportunists often assume people are carrying more in their wallet this time of the year. Only bring what you need when you go shopping and carry your valuables where you can see them, like in front of your body or in a zipped bag.

Students should add gift cards and credit cards to a virtual wallet if possible and reduce the need to carry cash, Ms. Brackney said.

“Always verify the site and utilize reputable sites such as Google Wallet which has 24/7 fraud monitoring and a fraud protection guarantee, which covers 100 percent of transactions made without your authorization,” she said. “If you absolutely need to carry cash, only carry small amounts and keep your money in a separate place or pocket.”

Tip #3: Travel with a buddy
If you are leaving campus to do some holiday shopping around the city or to participate in any seasonal activities, go with a friend and let others know where you will be and what time to expect you back.

“Holidays and festive activities can derail normal routines and habits, so take a friend or share your location when you head out and-about,” Ms. Brackney said. “If you are a first-time visitor to D.C. during the holidays, stay alert. Even if a person seems friendly, never follow them into a dark area or closed-off space. Criminals will take advantage of your politeness and limited knowledge of the city. Switch out your designer sunglasses, bags or book bags for a less expensive item.”

Tip #4: Let GW know if you are staying on campus
If you are staying in your residence hall during the extended break, let GW Housing know. This helps GWPD keep track of who should be on campus and will give officers a heads up to pay more attention to your residence hall.

“There is a great deal of activity on campus particularly as renovations, maintenance, systems checks, fire alarm tests, water-outage or power outages are typically scheduled during low-volume times, such as breaks,” Ms. Brackney said. “Informing GWPD of your stay allows for more effective and efficient notifications and for increased patrols in those areas. Additionally, informing GWPD of your presence helps to quickly identifying persons who should not be here.”

Tip #5: Stay informed
To stay informed on what is going on around campus, download the GW PAL app on your smartphone. With the app you can check recent GW alerts, submit crime tips and use the “Arm” feature to call for help.

The student-run free EMT service EMeRG will have limited service during the break, but GWPD will still be operating 24/7. For emergency police assistance members of the GW community can call 202-994-6111.

Staying safe on campus is a year-round exercise so visit the Division of Safety and Security website for additional safety tips and videos.

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