Addressing issues ranging from the reported crackdown on underage drinking at final clubs to the recent stranger rapes, Harvard University Police Department spokesperson Steven G. Catalano presented crime statistics and took questions at Sunday night’s Undergraduate Council General Meeting.
The UC invited Catalano in response to student concerns about campus safety, especially in light of the two reported stranger rapes that occurred earlier this year.
“I received a lot of feedback, especially from freshmen, who were concerned about the rapes,” said Student Life Committee Chair Michael C. George ’14, who is also a Crimson news editor. “A lot of people do not feel safe at night.”
Catalano assured student representatives that HUPD had added uniformed and plain-clothes officer patrols in and around Harvard Yard. He said that increased police presence on the Yard has not taken away officers from other Harvard campuses.
George, who has said that campus safety is a priority for his committee, emphasized at Sunday’s meeting that he hopes to increase lighting along the walking route to the Quad.
Catalano offered advice for students to stay safe, encouraging them to store HUPD’s number in their phone, walk in groups at night, and use the University’s shuttle and evening van services. For students walking between the Yard and the Quad, he offered one additional suggestion: “I would avoid walking through the Cambridge Common and instead walk on the outside—on either side,” he said.
Catalano spent much of the night addressing other issues that affect students. He refuted the notion that HUPD and Cambridge Police initiated a crackdown targeting underage drinking earlier this semester. Instead, he said that violent incidents near final clubs last spring led to the increased police presence.
“There was no crackdown,” he said. “What actually happened is that Cambridge Police and HUPD jointly patrolled on Friday and Saturday nights.”
Though HUPD is not targeting underage drinkers, Catalano warned that students should always exercise good judgment.
“Mostly underage people felt that they could walk around with open containers. To quote the chief: ‘Mt. Auburn St. is not Bourbon St. North.’ If you walk around with open containers of alcohol, you are subject to arrest,” he said.
Throughout the meeting, Catalano emphasized HUPD’s goal of policing in partnership with the community. The department focuses on protecting students, Catalano said, and not necessarily making arrests. He pointed out that the University, and not HUPD, handles most disciplinary action.
“Our job is not to decide how you will be held accountable for your behavior,” he said. “However, if there is violence or destruction of property, that is another story.”
In addition to violent crime and vandalism, HUPD treats drug distribution very seriously, according to Catalano.
“There is a difference between possession of drugs and distribution of drugs,” he said. “When you distribute drugs, what is involved? Drugs and money. And when there is money and drugs, what will inevitably follow? Violence.”
Statistics provided by Catalano gave representatives a clearer idea of the types of crime most prevalent on campus. Between 2000 and 2011, there were an average of 46 violent crimes, some occurring in areas near campus, such as outside Au Bon Pain. During that same period, an average of 121 bikes were stolen each year.
While the overall crime rate has been reduced 25 percent over the last 10 years, almost all of the reduction can be attributed to declining property crime, which accounted for 93 percent of all crimes. In 2000, there were 814 reported property crimes; in 2011, that number had fallen to 508. HUPD statistics reveal an average of nine robberies per year during that same period.
Catalano reminded representatives that Harvard is located in an urban environment, and he said he advises students stay alert, secure their property, and report anything suspicious immediately to the HUPD.
—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.