CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — Students are beginning to fill their college campuses, and officials want them to be aware of their surroundings. 

In the last few days, thousands have returned to the Champaign area to start their school years at U of I. The University of Illinois Police Department said tools and outreach programs are keeping campus safe. 

Pat Wade, a UIPD spokesperson, said they have increased their technology. They’ve added license plate readers and more security cameras. 

He said this allows them to generate more investigative leads and make more arrests. 

When it comes to staying safe, Wade said the best thing to do is to stay together and walk in groups. 

“A lot of the crimes we see are crimes of opportunity,” he said. “Where a criminal’s going to look for someone who’s either alone or in a dark area and take advantage of that situation. If our students can avoid being in that situation, then that goes a long way to deter a lot of crime.”

Parents may also worry as they send their children off to school. He said the best thing to do is keep the lines of communication open. 

“They have a big impact on their student’s behavior, so if they can reinforce some of these safety strategies, I think that goes a long way,” Wade said. 

UIPD offers informational sessions for parents during student orientations in the summer. They also have family resources on their website, such as links to sign up for Illini Alert safety messages.