Howard's campus, itself, is relatively safe. In the past, however, the surrounding Shaw district has been ranked by USA Today and several other national publications as one of the most dangerous areas in the country. However, as a result of the district going through a process of gentrification, as well as several anti-crime programs and ordinances put in place by the city, there has been a significant reduction in the number of crimes committed against students on and around campus. Because of the district's all-too-recent history, however, there is a visible police presence on campus, especially after dark. While it is not uncommon to see one or more police cars parked by the dorms or the occasional car patrolling the surrounding streets, it is very rare to see one by the quad or by the permanently closed streets leading into the campus.
All of the buildings on campus, with the exception of the dorms, the libraries, the gym, and the computer labs, are accessible to both students and the public alike. So, theoretically speaking, there's always the chance that the guy you see sleeping in the back of your chemistry class on a particularly hot day just came in from the street to get some much-needed air conditioning. As for the dorms, only students with valid IDs can gain entrance. For instance, students who have not been financially validated can't access the main computer lab, and students who don't have housing can't access the dorms with their IDs.