Talking up Security

While Harvard students may still not feel secure in their rooms or on the streets, police statistics show that reports of serious crimes have decreased by one-half over the past year.

Such news is comforting, but fails to allay the fears of those who daily read reports of crime--which this year included rapes at the Business School, attacks on students in Lowell House, and the assault of a gay student at Tommy's Lunch.

There are complaints about the worth of the statistics, too. Elizabeth M. Einaudi '83, a founder of Students Organized for Security (SOS), expressed major concern that police do not collect statistics on crimes against students not committed on Harvard property. For example, one student was raped near Mather House, but the incident did not make it into the police records, because it occurred on non-Harvard property.

At a meeting of SOS, Saul L. Chafin, chief of University police, explained that police do not collect these statistics because such crimes fall outside of Harvard's jurisdiction, an answer which failed to satisfy most of the SOS members in the audience.

Some members of SOS say that the low level of attention given to security--as indicated in the failure to report off-campus rapes--is a deliberate effort on the part of University administrators striving to maintain Harvard's "ivory tower" image.

Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, vehemently denies these charges, saying that Harvard has "put a lot of time and money into security. We consider it to be a-high-priority item."

Steiner points out that in the last six or seven years he has worked closely with Chafin on improving the level of security at Harvard in two ways--preventing the actual crime, and increasing the perception of security. To do this, he maintains that students must be aware of the crimes that do occur, adding that in "fairness to the University community" reports of the recent rapes at the B-School were made public after the initial reservations of the victims about publicizing the incident.

Steiner adds that he has met with Einaudi to discuss the possibility of a weekly crime report and has cooperated with her request for data on crime in the University community.

The police are involved in different efforts--some of them student-organized--to help improve students awareness of security programs and to help reduce the incidence of serious crimes on campus.

However, despite the avowals of commitment, it took the University a full two years, for example, to set up the Sensitive Crime Unit (SCU), due on the campus this July. The SCU will be a joint project of the police and University Health Services to respond to and investigate crimes such as rape and other forms of sexual assault.

One problem that recurs each September is the unfamiliarity of entering freshmen with potential dangers of Cambridge and Boston at night. Cute signs like the one saying "Go Groupy at Night" draw only limited attention to the problem.

To address this problem, the Freshman Dean's Office and Henry C. Moses, dean of freshmen, have instituted an informational program on security for incoming freshmen this fall. Whether it is effective in educating students about safety--by telling them about the "blue phones" on campus and of areas to avoid in Cambridge and Boston--remains to be seen.