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The recent disappearance of a Yale University medical student was “pretty unique,” in the words of Jonathan Kassa, executive director of Security on Campus, a nonprofit organization that aims to prevent crime on college campuses nationwide.

But the incident has brought intense focus on staying safe in college, and Penn officials and college security experts maintain that there are several ways of doing just that.

Kassa emphasized “common-sense” solutions.

“When you go out, let someone know where you’re going and when you’re going to be back,” he said.

Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush agreed.

“One of the best safety features anyone has is their neighbors,” she said, pointing to the “Vertical Town Watch” initiative launched last year by the Division of Public Safety.

The initiative advises people living on the same floor or on the same block to get to know one another over lunch or coffee and establish ways of indicating danger to one another.

Rush advised students to create a system based on blowing a whistle to indicate a dangerous situation.

“We’re not asking anyone to come out of their apartment and become the second victim,” she said. Instead, neighbors hearing a whistle should immediately call Penn Police.

She emphasized that every student should program the Penn Police phone number, (215) 573-3333, into their cell phones.

For students living in off-campus residences, both Rush and Kassa advised vigilantly checking safety features, such as solid doors, dead-bolt locks, security screens or bars on first-floor windows and adequate exterior lighting, before renting an apartment or house.

If a landlord hasn’t installed adequate safety features, Kassa said, students should avoid renting from them.

“There has to be some type of a demand from students as consumers,” he said.

Rush pointed out that students can call DPS to request a safety presentation or safety audit for a residence.

Rush also advised purchasing timers for lights to give the appearance that someone is home.

“People don’t like to go into a well-lit place because they’re not sure if you’re home or not,” she said.

She also highlighted programs like Rape Aggression Defense, in which DPS members show how to “verbally and physically” confront an aggressor, as well as PennWalk, a 24-hour walking escort service.

“There’s no one around here that has to walk around by themselves,” Rush said.

Penn has typically been “on the cutting edge of employing proactive tactics,” Kassa said, pointing to Penn’s 2003 Jeanne Clery Award. The award is given by Security on Campus “to honor institutions and individuals that have done extraordinary things to make college and university students safer,” according to the organization’s website.

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