Tips to keep kids safe with valuables in their backpacks

South Bend, Ind. Many students are back in the classroom. And while most of us want our kids to hit the books, it's also important to remind them to keep a close eye on their book-bags. That's because there's usually more in their backpacks than just books.

There are items from expensive calculators to laptops, and a lot of smart-phones. It all adds up to some pretty expensive cargo in those bags. And don't think the thieves haven't figured that out.

“We have upped the ante of the valuables contained in backpacks, especially for college students,” says Lt. Cindy Kilgore the coordinator of Michiana Crime Stoppers, Inc. “Laptops, tablets smartphones, MP3 devices, digital cameras, all those things are prime targets for thieves.”

And the thieves are apparently well-educated in the art of obtaining your students valuables.

“They're outsiders that come in and present themselves as one of the students,” says Lt. Kilgore. “They tend to target areas like student lounges libraries, unattended classrooms, hallways and, as you can imagine, it just takes a second for someone having left an item unattended and a thief to get their hands on it.”

And while this is a problem on college campuses everywhere, Kilgore says students at predominantly commuter campuses like IU South Bend and Ivy Tech, may be at more of a risk than others.

“Especially a student who does not live on campus, and has to go to campus for the day, tends to carry more things to prepare themselves for whatever they're going to need throughout that day,” explains Lt. Kilgore. “We could be talking a value of well into a couple thousand, $2,000 or $3,000 of contents in a backpack. And also, not to be overlooked are the cost of textbooks.”

So, whether your student is in grade school, high school or college, remind them to be vigilant.

“Never leave yourself unattended, not even for a second,” explains Lt. Kilgore. “What I like to see are the kids that are in the cafeteria and their backpacks are right between their feet and not slung over the back of their chairs. If you lean forward that strap can come off its walking down the hall before anyone even realizes it.”

Lt. Kilgore also says have all your devices password protected.

“We've had several cases where an item is stolen, the thief gets not too far away, tries to get into it, realizes it's password protected and they dump it,” explains Lt. Kilgore. “So often, those items can be recovered because of the password security.”

Kilgore also says there are apps and services that can place trackers on all your devices.

And while theft is a concern, even more important is personal safety, laptops can be replaced, your child can't.

Whether it's UCLA or IUSB, the most important thing is never to find yourself alone in a new place, especially after dark. The "buddy system" is paramount.

Student Safety Tips

• Realize that there is a risk of crime, including violent crime anywhere
• Know that using drugs or alcohol can increase your risk of becoming a victim (they're involved in 90% of student crimes)
• Be alert and aware of your surroundings
• Report any suspicious activity to police or campus security
• Trust your intuition

• Make sure your dorm room and hall entrances are locked, especially when you're not there or at night when you're sleeping, (never prop a door open for someone)
• Don't let a stranger in the building or allow someone to tailgate you in
• Keep valuables secure and out of sight
• Keep shades drawn at night

Getting around:
• Plan ahead for the safest transportation (shuttle, taxi, designated driver)
• Use the buddy system whenever you can (don't go out alone)
• Share your schedules with parents, close friends
• Research crime rates and avoid areas where it's high
• Familiarize yourself with security offices, emergency phones
• Study campus maps, neighborhoods to plan safest route to classes or activities
• Never walk alone at night, or be the last to leave a building
• Be aware attackers can hide in your backseat or even under the car
• Have keys ready, can be used as defensive weapon
• Consider carrying mace or pepper spray
• Attach a personal alarm to key ring
• Program "emergency contact" into your phone
• If a party gets out of hand "LEAVE"
• Never leave your drink unattended or with a stranger.

Campus Thefts
• Top 5 targeted items for theft ; band instruments, laptops/computers/smart phones, sports equipment, MP3 players, digital cameras
• Backpacks often full of some of these items, as well as wallets and text books
• Often outsiders on campus trying to blend in and watch for items left unattended
• Commuter students often at greatest risk, carrying everything they need for the day
• Thieves target food courts, hallways, libraries, classrooms
• It only takes a few seconds for something to happen
• Never leave valuables unattended
• Never leave valuables in plain sight in your car, or visible through a residential window
• Password protect your computer, cell phone
• Consider apps that track stolen computers, tablets, phones
• Cable locks can be used to secure computers or laptops to a desk or chair
• Check theft coverage in homeowner's or auto insurance policies, consider obtaining renter's insurance if living off campus
• Identity theft: college students represent largest percentage of victims
• Cross-cut shredders and lock boxes should be part of back-to-school supplies
• Avoid credit card sign-up booths on campus, shred any applications arriving in the mail
• Choose uncommon passwords, as opposed to a pet's name or high school which often end up on social media and are easy to guess
• Check your bank/credit card statements and credit report regularly

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