In 2005, the cousin of my good friend was the victim of a horrific crime in her own off-campus apartment. Lindsey Bonistall was a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Delaware and the light of her family's life. In the early morning hours of May 1, she was home alone, but she expected to be safe. However, an intruder had different, terrible plans, and after raping and strangling her to death, he set her apartment on fire in an attempt to cover up his brutal crime.
PEACE OUTside CAMPUS - The Lindsey M. Bonistall Foundation
Unfortunately, Lindsey is not alone. According to the American College Health Association, 93% of college students who are crime victims live off-campus. While the lives of Lindsey's family and friends were forever changed, her death sparked a new mission for them — to protect current and future off-campus college students from becoming victims too.
PEACE OUTside CAMPUS - The Lindsey M. Bonistall Foundation was created to promote peaceful and safe living environments in off-campus college communities across the U.S. Wanting to both celebrate Lindsey's life and continue her legacy, her family named the foundation after Lindsey's favorite parting words, peace out.
If you are the parent of a college-aged student who lives off-campus, you probably worry quite a bit about her well-being. We all want to protect our children, yet we struggle with how to do that while also letting them go. PEACE OUTside CAMPUS offers tips and programs to help you help your child learn to advocate for her own safety. Their programs include Teens 'N Transition to educate high school students, The Certified Off-Campus Housing Program to teach students about necessary safety precautions, and Living Off-Campus 101 to educate students who are living off-campus about staying safe. Checklists and tips are available on their website, including the following considerations to take when searching for off-campus housing.
- Ask current residents and neighbors if they feel safe living here.
- Learn how far away emergency assistance is.
- Does the complex provide security devices, doorman, patrols, escorts, etc.?
- What are the procedures for replacing lost or unreturned keys?
- Who has access to the residence and/or the master keys?
- Are locks changed with each new resident?
- Have the maintenance men had criminal background checks?
- Does the university police department work closely with local police departments in patrolling the off-campus area?
- Is the surrounding area, including parking and entrances, well-lit?
- What is the condition and structure of the front doors?
- Do the doors have deadbolts and are the outside hinges non-removable?
- Is there a peephole? And if not, can one be installed?
- Does the door fit securely in the jamb?
- Do sliding doors have blocking cleats to prevent it from opening from the outside?
- Does EVERY window have a working lock?
- Can windows still be locked when opened a few inches for ventilation?
- Is the mailbox lockable and in good condition?
- Are there a sufficient number of working smoke detectors? Are they battery-operated or hardwired?
- Are there adequate emergency escape routes?
- Are fire extinguishers available in each apartment and in common areas?
- Are window air conditioners secured from the inside?
Asking these questions is just one step to increasing your child's safety when living off-campus. To get additional advice, or to learn more about the PEACE OUTside CAMPUS programs, visit www.peaceoutsidecampus.org.