Thefts Rise in Houses This Year; Better Methods of Control Sought
During the first three weeks of school thefts in the Houses have reached 20 per cent of last year's total, according to a survey completed October 9 by the Harvard police.
Chief Robert Tonis blamed the increase of thefts on what he termed an "open door policy." "Our survey shows that students leaving doors unlocked accounts for close to 90 per cent of the losses."
Of 82 thefts reported by four of the Houses this fall, only 15 of them occurred while doors were locked. Principal items stolen were stereos and cameras.
Drug Users Blamed
Captain George Walsh stressed that drug users are responsible for a large proportion of the thefts. "A boy we caught the other night had taken a lot of things in order to supply his need for drugs," Walsh said. "Anything worth money will be stolen. People take whatever there's a demand for."
Walsh said it is imperative for students to report all thefts as well as all suspicious-looking youths they see loitering around the Houses. "The six arrests we made in September depended on people informing us. It should be worth it to people to get their property back."
The Harvard police say they are likely to recover several thousand dollars worth of stolen property on the basis of recent information. "We will not hold a person who makes it worth our while by returning stolen property and leading us to other stolen property," Walsh said.
The police were optimistic that more of the thieves will be caught this year. Describing police methods Walsh said, "We have to give and take. We're not trying to look-a lot of ?ids up. We're
just trying to keep the thieves away. It's like the federal government protecting Castro so that nobody shoots him in this country. After that, we don't care what happens."
Kenneth Levison, assistant senior tutor in Lowell House, said he suspects there is a ring involved in the stealing of stereo equipment and cameras and hopes that the police will be effective in discovering it. "But the only way to long-run effectiveness against theft is to report things. It's not a question of feeling sorry for the kids. If everyone looks the other way, it just encourages kids to greater delinquency."
Finally, Levison said he regrets that threats to property are not taken seriously by a significant number of students. "I feel I'm as much of a socialist as anybody else, but attacks on private possessions are a matter of safety, which is essential to the well-being of the whole community."