For many college-bound students, the biggest decision of their young lives could be based on shiny brochures with few specifics–especially about crime and safety on campus.

A newly upgraded web site aims to add something to that information and possibly instruct students in how to choose safe colleges, then stay safe while there.

“A school is a business and they rent out rooms. They are responsible for the safety of the students. The fact that they teach you is extra,” said Howard Clery, who with his wife, Connie, founded Security on Campus Inc., a nonprofit clearinghouse for campus crime statistics and information.

The Clerys’ daughter, Jeanne, was raped and killed in her Lehigh University dorm room in 1986–a crime that Clery said could have been prevented. Since then, the Bryn Mawr couple, who live half the year in Harbor Ridge, Fla., have led a nationwide campaign to improve security on college campuses.

The Clerys began by planting the seeds for dozens of state bills and eventually a federal law–that require schools to report crime statistics. As more requests for information and advice came in from students and parents, the couple launched a web site to better spread the word.

“Security on Campus is intended to inform students that crime happens on and around college and university campuses, and there are things they can do to prevent it,” said Daniel Carter, vice president of Security on Campus.

The site includes crime statistics provided by more than 500 schools, internet links to FBI crime statistics and local police departments, and advice on preventing campus crime. But, Carter cautioned, the information is not intended to discourage students from matriculating at schools with higher crime rates.

“Temple may be in a tough area, but rural Lehigh (University) will have crime as well, though mostly student-on-student crime,” Carter said.

Officials at the University of Pennsylvania, which had been criticized for underreporting crime, said students should know as much as possible about campus crime.

“The best defense against crime is a strong law enforcement presence and an alert, aware campus community,” University of Pennsylvania spokesman Ken Wildes said. “That means kids and faculty and staff have to understand there are things you can do proactively and things you probably shouldn’t do.”

Advice to college-bound students include these suggestions:

Lock your dorm-room door, walk at night with a partner, and tell friends and roommates your schedule so they can check on you.

Upgraded in December, the site was one of about a dozen honored last year by the Victim-Assistance Online Forum, a cyberspace club of staff and volunteers from victim-assistance organizations around the world.

“Security on Campus was given the award because of the sheer amount of information they supply for students and their parents,” said Randy McCall of the Victim-Assistance Online Forum. “It’s truly an excellent site and a tremendous resource.”

Security on Campus Inc.

The Victim-Assistance Online Forum