By Edith Allard
That’s according to a report by SafeWise, a collection of experts that provide news and consulting on safety and home security. The site looked at a variety of factors to decide the top 50 safest college towns, like FBI-reported crime rates, population and other programs that contribute to campus knowledge and protection.
Number one on SafeWise’s list is the town of Brookings, South Dakota, harboring South Dakota State University. Shortly after UNH, at number eight, is the town of Amherst, Massachusetts, and the campuses of Amherst College, Hampshire College, and UMass Amherst. Dartmouth is the only other New Hampshire college on the list, down at number 26.
The report had plenty of good things to say about Durham, particularly about the programs offered by police.
For example, SafeWise referenced UNH’s Citizen Police Academy as an important contribution to safety for helping to engage the campus community. The spring semester program uses lessons taught by police officers, hands-on experiences and field excursions to help participants—both students and staff—understand the role of campus police in the community.
Campus police Chief Paul Dean said students “graduate from the program with a heightened sense of personal safety and often become involved in advocating for a better understanding of campus safety concerns.”
The police have a few community-building techniques. One is the Good Neighbor Initiative, in which police try to follow up with students with whom they have interacted. After visiting someone’s house on a noise complaint or similar offense, the Durham Police will send a Problem Oriented Policing (POP) officer the next afternoon to discuss how to avoid future offenses.
Durham police Chief David Kurz said he fully recognizes the intelligence of UNH students, and that simply arresting people won’t do any good to change future behavior.
“[The program] has opened up an opportunity for students to talk to each other (after the potentially stressful police visit is over),” he said. The Good Neighbor Initiative has caused an almost 70 percent reduction in relapsing into criminal behavior.
Both Dean and Kurz also cite the high levels of cooperation between the campus and town police departments as a contributor to the heightened safety on campus. According to Dean, the two use social media to communicate clearly with the community and work to create the best policing strategy. Programs and methods like the ones used by the two police departments combine to give Durham its high ranking on the SafeWise report.