Confronting Crime In Harvard Square

"Friends of Harvard Square SOS!" read the poster plastered on the boarded window of Rogers, a clothing store on Dunster St. "You can stop this Terrorism."

The sign reflects what Harvard Square merchants said yesterday is increasing frustration over a lack of police and community response to a recent wave of "smash and grab" burglaries of local shops.

Lucy Tashjian, Rogers's owner, said that when her store was broken into on a Sunday morning two weeks ago, it took two hours before police or passers-by noticed the broken window and missing merchandise. It was the second time that the shop had been the target of such an attack in recent months.

"This can't go on," said Tashjian. "We can't continue to absorb the cost [of the thefts]."

More than 20 stores in the Square suffered similar burglaries between last fall and April, when police arrested two men in connection with the incidents. Shopowners said yesterday that until the Rogers break-in, they had assumed the arrests had put an end to the crime wave.

"We're hoping it's an isolated incident," revealed Fred Gemino, manager of The Crimson Shop, which is next door to Rogers.

Jack W. Morse, deputy chief of the Harvard police, said he believes the Rogers break-in is unrelated to the earlier outbreak.

But merchants said they are afraid that the burglaries will continue because of what they call inadequate police patrols in the Square.

Tashjian said Cambridge and Harvard police should have responded sooner to the break-in at her store. Since the property is owned by the University, protecting Rogers is the responsibility of both forces.

"Perhaps [the police are] not trained enough, or caring enough," Tashjian said. "Perhaps we need more foot patrols."

Merchants specifically cited the need for highly-visible patrols as a deterrent to would-be thieves.

"A person undercover is not going to help us; a uniform will." said Mike Silverman of The Cambridge Shop on Dunster St.

And shopowners said that without better response from police, they may be forced to put up iron bars, a step they say they fear would hurt the Square's physical appearance.

"In a week or so, you'll see grates on the windows," said Tashjian.

Police could not be reached for further comment last night.