Too Dark in the Park

Both Harvard and Cambridge should work to enhance safety around the Common

Harvard is not quite the safe haven it is often made out to be. Last Wednesday, while walking through Cambridge Common around 8:30 at night, a Harvard undergraduate was groped by an unidentified male. This sexual assault marked the fourth attack near the Quad during the past two weeks. In response, Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) spokesperson Steven G. Catalano advised students to avoid taking this route through Cambridge Common and instead utilize the designated blue-light pathways when walking to and from the Quad after dark.

Many students do not take the “Safety Walk” that HUPD recommends because it appears to take them a few blocks out of their way on the trek from Johnston Gate to the Quad. But despite student perceptions, the routes—measured in distance and time—are identical. Students concerned with their safety should make the extra effort to stay along the safety walk.

Amidst concerns about crime in the area, however, HUPD should investigate more safety-enhancing actions—for one, replacing a lost blue-light and phone on the safety walk. A Harvard police station located near Cambridge Common on Garden Street went under construction two years ago, and the renovation not only removed the reassuring presence of police but also eliminated a nearby emergency light. There is no reason why the University should not replace the phone and light immediately. The cost of replacing this point on the safety walk is well worth the added security it will provide.

Safety in and around Cambridge Common is not just an issue for HUPD. As part of Cambridge, insuring safety in the Common is the responsibility of the city—and only one of the four recent attacks was directed at a Harvard affiliate. With Cambridge City Council elections next week and the obvious safety concerns of members of the Cambridge community being vocalized in the races, councillors should investigate the installation of brighter and more numerous field lights in the Common. Such lights would provide better visibility after dark and discourage would-be attackers. Pressure and financial support from Harvard for the installation of such lights would be appropriate, as College students often do find themselves in and around the Common during the day and after dark.