Harvard is often regarded by the outside community as a refuge from the concerns of the real world. Many Harvard students and administrators view their school in the same way, seeing it as a sanctuary not plagued by the same problems as other institutions.
One issue that we often see as irrelevant to our lives at Harvard is crime something that few of us think about with any regularity. We tease our friends at Yale about having to live in crime-ridden New Haven, boasting about the relative safety of Cambridge. But as some recent events demonstrate, Harvard is by no means invulnerable to crime.
In the past week, several crimes came to the attention of the Harvard community. A series of thefts at the Peabody Terrace garage left nine automobiles damaged. Harvard police issued a warning to the community about con artists bilking people in Harvard Square. A television was stolen from the Greenough Common Room. A financial officer of Harvard Magazine pled guilty to embezzling $190,000 from the magazine over six years.
Some of the crimes were quite recent, and some date back several years. Some were fairly small (the stealing of a television) and some were somewhat larger (the stealing of $190,000). But all of them offer us two fairly obvious lessons that we would do well to act upon.
The first lesson, certainly not a new one, is that the Harvard administration and police department should do more to fight crime. Take the Peabody Terrace garage thefts, for example. Theft at the garage is not a new phenomenon. Similar incidents have happened before.
What concrete steps have been taken to prevent such problems from happening again? We would suggest that Harvard think about installing security cameras or hiring a garage attendant. The University should learn from its past mistakes in dealing with crime.
The second lesson is meant for students, and it's also a simple one: we must be more careful in the course of our daily lives at Harvard.
It's easy to say that Harvard students are an intelligent bunch of people who would take appropriate measures to minimize crime, but we aren't always as smart as we should be with regard to this issue. While none of the recent swindlers in the Square successfully victimized Harvard students, con men employing the same tactic were able to prey on several students in 1993.
The Harvard police are charged with protecting the Harvard community. But this does not mean that we have no role to play in keeping our campus safe. A large part of the responsibility for fighting crime rests on our shoulders as well.