OXFORD, MS (WLOX) - The University of Mississippi has been ranked at No. 9 among the top 25 safest colleges in America. The campus safety rankings were published recently by www.TheDailyBeast.com, a nonpartisan news aggregation Web site founded by former New Yorker and Vanity Fair editor Tina Brown.
The rankings are based on crime statistics submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. The site examined crime statistics of 4,000 four-year colleges and universities with a student population of more than 6,000.
The accolade appears to be in line with University Police Chief Calvin Sellers' assessment of safety and law enforcement efforts on campus.
"We're honored," Sellers said. "The ranking includes the crime statistics on campus as well as in the community, so the city and county should be proud, too, to be mentioned in this group."
The Top 10 ranking reflects open communication between UPD and local law enforcement agencies, as well as crime prevention programs with students, Sellers said. Such programs include Adopt-a-Cop, where UPD officers serve as liaisons with various student organizations.
"We have a diverse group of students that changes every four years or so, and we can't police them if we don't know them," Sellers said. "We have to work together toward a common goal."
Korey Keys, a senior broadcast journalism major from Atlanta, praised the Adopt-a-Cop program, saying that he and his fraternity brothers at Phi Kappa Psi are comforted in knowing they have an officer to turn to when they need advice or have questions.
"Our officer is like a mentor to us," Keys said. "He's very understanding and cordial. He's our go-to guy whenever we have an issue come up."
UM Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Larry Ridgeway praised Sellers' approach of prevention and open communication with students.
"His focus is education and protection, as opposed to heavy-handed enforcement," Ridgeway said. "I think that goes a long way in helping make our campus safer."
While burglary rates on campus have increased slightly, from 10 reported cases in 2007 to 27 cases in 2008, Sellers said he hopes those numbers decrease as the economy rebounds.
He also asked students and faculty to assist with the effort by being more vigilant in securing their possessions, especially laptops and book bags.
"I've been in law enforcement for 25 years, and I hate to say it, but I'm cynical," Sellers said. "I lock my house when I leave, and I lock my car. Students are a little younger and a little more trusting of others, but they need to remember - don't give someone an opportunity to steal your stuff."
To learn more about the rankings, visit http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-09-24/the-top-25-safest-colleges.