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Insecurity at the Cliffe

Brass Tacks

By Deborah B. Johnson

IN THE past month, Radcliffe's lack of security has become increasingly apparent. Last week a sophomore was stabbed in Jordan J--the first time in the College's history that such an incident has occurred. And in January two men walked into eight rooms in Moors during the night and stole wallets without waking anyone up. Both times, the men escaped long before police arrived. There have been many other instances of theft and strange men in dormitory rooms at all hours, some of which are never even reported to police.

Some improvements are being made because of these incidents. Locks for individual rooms, once termed too expensive, are now being installed and peepholes will be drilled in all outside doors. Buildings and Grounds men will wear identifying patches.

Radcliffe's dormitory system has some built-in risks, however. With the exception of Wolbach, there are no apartment-like houses without ground floor common rooms. The 13 other brick dormitories have bell systems in which one girl has the job of questioning people entering the dorm. When a girl is on bells, the outside doors are unlocked, or, as in Cabot, are opened with a buzzer for all those who ring.

The cooperation of visitors is assumed in this system. If someone is asked to leave, he is expected to do so, or at least to wait quietly until someone calls the police to escort him. The inadequacy of the system was well illustrated last week when a man entering Jordan J rushed the girl on bells and she screamed and fled. He then went into the dining room, stabbed a girl, and ran away.

Of course, some of the blame for the failures of the bells system rests with the Cliffies themselves. Often a girl will not ask for identification from a repairman, or she won't check the whole ground floor before locking up. When the dormitory is locked, girls often prop open the door while they go out to mail a letter or return a reserve book to Hilles. These are all mistakes which by now should no longer happen, in view of the increase of thefts and tension over physical safety.

But even if the girls were to enforce the bells system more strictly, there are other drawbacks in the security of Radcliffe as a whole.

Both the stabber of last week and Jane Britton's killer have not yet been found, and judging by the murder of Mrs. Ada Bean one half block away from Comstock Hall, the killer may still be in Cambridge. Neither Cambridge nor University Police have responded to the situation by increasing their patrols in the Radcliffe area.

One University policeman cruises in a car around Radcliffe during the day, and from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. he is joined by two foot patrolmen covering the grounds. They do not enter buildings unless specifically asked to do so. Three Radcliffe night watchmen, usually older men retired from some other job, patrol the basements and ground floors of the dormitories from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. At night, six men are responsible for the safety of 1200 girls in 22 dormitories stretching from near the Continental Hotel to the Observatory and almost to Mass. Ave.

FOR THE peeping toms and exhibitionists that Radcliffe has had to deal with in the past, this seems a reasonable allotment of men. But now the number of local crimes, strangers in dormitories, and thefts is increasing. Whether this reflects a rising national crime rate, or just an increased awareness that the 'Cliffe is an easy mark for criminals, is immaterial. The fact is that Radcliffe is getting more dangerous and security forces should be increased.

When faced with expensive, unplanned additions, such as locks on all individual rooms, Radcliffe often falls behind the shield of insufficient funds. Safety should not be evaluated financially, but even so, increased security forces would not be very expensive.

Radcliffe night watchmen cost between $20 and $25 per eight-hour shift. Girls are in dormitories approximately 35 weeks of the year, which would mean between $5000 and $6000 per year per watchman. Harvard University Police Chief Tonis has said that the only way to have more police at Radcliffe would be to add new men to the existing 63-man force. Police salaries, including fringe benefits, are about $10,000 per year.

If Radcliffe added four night watchmen, bringing the ratio to one man per two brick dormitories, it would cost $20,000 to $40,000 each year. Increasing the police patrol to between five and seven men for one eight-hour shift would add another $20,000 to $50,000. Or the University Police could relocate some patrolmen now working in other areas rather than adding new ones to the force.

This plan would cost from $20,000 to $74,000 per year. Radcliffe is presently raising $30 million, $15 million of which will go to improvements on campus, such as Currier House, 200-car parking lot under the Quad, a connecting link between Eliot and Bertram, and others. Considering this sum, and the imminent merger with Harvard, $74,000 seems a small amount to spend on the physical safety--perhaps even the lives--of 1200 Cliffies.

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