To the Editors of The Crimson:
I was both heartened and disappointed by Philip Weiss' account of the alleged purse-snatching incident which took place in Lamont Library on January 22. Having been the victim of a very similar purse-snatching attempt last year in the Quincy House dining hall, I am all too familiar with the helplessness and outrage one feels when involved in this sort of incident. Much of the helplessness I felt then was assuaged by the willingness of many Harvard students (some of whom I didn't even know) to get involved and come to my aid both during and after the incident. I was cheered to read that this selflessness was again demonstrated by the students involved in yesterday's incident. It is very heartening to know that, contrary to popular advice to yell "fire" when one needs help, here at Harvard, a cry for "help" will still evoke an overwhelming response.
My disappointment came upon reading that the victim decided not to press charges against the alleged purse-snatcher because "the police told her she would not be able to prove the charge." I, too, was advised by the Harvard Police not to go to court because my case was too weak. Yet, I believe that it is important for us at Harvard to demonstrate that this University is not an "easy" target for any sort of crime. Unfortunately, that is exactly the image which Harvard, as well as most universities, have encouraged precisely because of such unwillingness on the part of university police to "bother" with prosecuting outsiders who commit difficult-to-prove crimes like tresspassing and petty larceny.
The Harvard Police actually helped to destroy my own case by allowing the two suspects to go without obtaining positive identification from them. The hearing notices which were sent to the suspects after I had officially pressed charges against them were returned a short time later marked "Addressee Unknown." It is this sort of lack of judgement and a demonstrated unwillingness on the part of the Harvard Police to prevent and prosecute crime that infuriates not only me, but many other members of the Harvard community.
I was further disappointed to read in Weiss' article that the alleged purse-snatcher was allowed into the library by the guard, who failed to check his identification. It seems that such security measures have failed in their attempt to control crime.
Until problems such as those outlined above are resolved, the Harvard community will undoubtedly be forced to endure many more crimes which could be prevented, and which might be more serious than just purse-snatchings. Lisa Popick, '77