Safety a Concern at Union Dorms

Administration remains confident in increased security in the area

An armed robbery and an indecent incident in front of Pennypacker Hall on Harvard Street earlier this year have some students worried about the safety of the area near the Union dorms.

But University administrators said that they have been working hard to keep freshmen living outside Harvard Yard as safe as those living inside.

Referring to the recent incidents, Matthew R. Greenfield ’08, Undergraduate Council secretary and representative for the East Yard, which includes the Union dorms, said he is concerned that the Union dorms are more vulnerable to safety concerns.

“Your first year at Harvard, the last thing you should have to do is to look over your shoulder for an indecent incident or a gun robbery,” he said.

Greenfield said he plans to submit a proposal to the University recommending they put more Harvard University signs in the area and place more blue safety lights along Harvard Street.

“We are privileged to live in such a beautiful and historic area as we do, but heavy gates can’t keep crime out of city neighborhoods,” Greenfield wrote in an e-mail to the Hurlbut list.

Since Robert K. Lord ’08 was robbed at gunpoint last month in front of Pennypacker Hall, where an indecent incident also occurred just a month ago, the University has responded by increasing police presence in the area.

More uniformed and plain-clothed police officers have been on patrol, said Steven G. Catalano, Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) spokesman.

“There is information going around that there’s a crime spree occurring in the Union dorm area which is wrong,” he said.

Statistics show that the Union dorms have been one of the safest areas on campus in the past two and half academic years, according to Catalano.

“The HUPD is concerned about the perception that Union dorms are not as safe, and we’re trying to address that,” he added.

“One could say that the Union dorm area is one of the safer places on campus,” said Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd, who sits on the College Safety Committee, which addressed the issue at a meeting last week.

Residents of Union dorms have mixed feelings about their safety.

“After the robbery, I used to get really scared walking home at night and would always run,” said Caroline B. Simmons ’08, who lives in Pennypacker. She feels safer now with the increased police presence, she said.

Jane Fang ’08, another East Yard council representative and a member of the Safety Committee, said she usually feels pretty safe.

But she added that it is important her fellow freshmen feel so as well.

“There is a sensationalized fear that the Union dorms are particularly unsafe,” she said. “As a safety rep I want to build awareness, not fear.”