The Pit, like any public place, can be dangerous at times. According to recent reports, some have allegedly attempted to use the Pit as a gang recruiting ground, and Nachtwey is believed to have been killed because she resisted those attempts.
Yet the recent murder provides no reason to close the Pit and prevent Cambridge residents from sitting there. Many of those who frequent the Pit have few other places to go. Homeless young people such as Nachtwey are made especially vulnerable because they lack access to a night-time shelter. Dispersing them during the day by closing the Pit would make them even less safe. Pushed out of the Pit, homeless youth might congregate in more isolated, less easily monitored areas where they would have little access to help or protection from local authorities.
Of course, not all of those who frequent the Pit are homeless; many of the Pit regulars simply choose to meet there, listening to live bands amid the bustle of a busy city. Those young people have as much right to the public space of Harvard Square as any student. The Pit must be kept safe for them, for students and for all members of the Cambridge community.
Mayor Anthony D. Galluccio was right to call for additional public safety measures in the wake of the murder, saying, “Our kids should be safe anytime, anywhere.” Cambridge has an obligation to protect all of its residents. However, it will take more policing to make Pit regulars such as Nachtwey safe.
We applaud city’s efforts to reach at-risk individuals in the Square and to include the Pit within the umbrella of many existing social service programs. It is only through more attention to the Pit, rather than attempts to close it down, that tragedies such as Nachtwey’s death can be avoided in the future.