The phone rings in the front office in the basement of Grays Hall. A tape recorder switches on as a woman picks up the line. "Why don't you wait in the booth, sir," she says. "We'll send one over as soon as we can." She turnes to her co-worker "When can we get someone over to the garage?" She laughs. "A guy has a larceny on his car." A car responds to the call and heads to the Everett St. Garage. The rover car follows. Time elapsed--three minutes. On the second floor of the garage a flustered old man complains that his station wagon has been broken into. When did he park it there, the police officer asks. What are you missing? The questions continue. The old man reaches into his glove compartment--"My wife's Gulf credit card," he answers.
He eases out of the car and walks, slowly, over to the hood and pulls it open. He mutters under his breath--he can't understand why "they" broke into his car. The battery is still there but the ignition has been tampered with. The officer asks his affiliation with Harvard. "I don't do anything at Harvard," he answers unperturbed. The officers are puzzled. The straightforwardness of his answer brings smiles to their faces, because the parking lot is reserved for Harvard affiliates. "I'm a retired colonel in the Corps of Engineers," the man quickly retorts.
"285 to base"..."Go ahead"..."I'm clearing the Everett St. Garage." "He was really proud about that Corps of Engineers stuff," Sgt. Albert Dougherty, the watch commander for the 8 a.m. to-4 p.m. shift, says as he pulls out of the lot.
That's a typical call for the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD). Nine out of ten days, in fact, will go by without any real "action" around the University, and recent statistics show that the incidence of property and violent crime on Harvard property has declined significantly. And there have been other changes, as well. New leadership and increased input into the decision-making system have eased the pentup tension of the policeman who last year, still recuperating from the David L. Gorski and Steven Hall administration, claimed morale was at an all-time low.
Saul L. Chafin, chief of University police since July, has already left his mark on the department. He has emphasized the need for personnel training not only in supervisory skills, but also in new crime prevention and protection techniques. For the first time since its existence, the police department is providing its officers with the opportunity to develop their skills through attendance at one-week course programs in the Boston area. Drug education and enforcement, arson investigation, rape victimology and crime scene search are just a few of the areas in which officers have received instruction over the last few months, and Chafin expects the training program to be ongoing.
"I have purposely attempted to make training courses for officers a priority in order to enhance their skills in those areas most needed to perform in an academic setting," Chafin says. Most pressing, he notes, reflecting on the state of the department when he arrived, was the need for supervisory training. Not, he explains, that the supervisors were operating below standard, but that they had received no formal training for supervisory positions.
The supervisors are in a sense glorified first line officers; they are sergeants and lieutenants who worked their way up within the department. All joined the department as patrolmen. Now, Chafin has provided them with the means to improve their supervisory techniques through three-and one-week intensive courses at the nearby Babson Command Training Institute and at Pine Manor.
"You need to know how to treat people," says L. Frank P. Shannon, the first campus policeman to attend the Babson Institute. He continues--"people are all really different, and as a supervisor you have to learn how to deal with each one individually. You can't act the same way with everyone." It's not that the course taught him anything really new--it served basically to confirm many of the approaches he already used as a supervisor. But he says he did learn how better to motivate the officers he is in charge of, how better to organize his time, the importance of setting management objectives and accurate reports. Most important, Shannon says, "I better understand the difference between management and the employee. That I am a manager and supposedly as a manager, I'm not really one of the boys." However, he adds, "You can't come on like a storm trooper...you have to be flexible."
"We learned about what tribe we all fit into, tribalistic, selfish, cognitive," Sgt. Dougherty, who took the Pine Manor course, says as he drives down Francis Ave. "285 to base...Out of service at the Sachs Estate," he radios in. "The behavioral sciences are good to study--it helps you deal with people. We all have a different way of our fuses going off. It's like a step ladder-we either revert to the lower level or we rise to the higher one. Cognitive is what I'd like all people to be--a cognitive person will say 'we,' and an egocentric person is always thinking what's best for 'me'." He walks through the Estate, which is known to be a favorite hangout for many alcoholics. "You look down at these people, but say that could be me," he reflects.
Lt. Shannon suggests that the real benefits of Babson will become evident once all four of the departments' lieutenants have completed the course. "We'll have a better understanding of the goals of the department," he says, adding this should increase communication between the different branches of the department, and facilitate the upward input into the decision-making process. Chafin would agree. "This office has been very open to suggestions and ideas from the entire complement of personnel and has instituted programmatic changes based upon some input," Chafin says, citing the initiation of monthly plenary staff meetings, new police cruisers with more effective equipment and the influence of dispatchers' opinions in the design of their new uniforms.
Chafin has also instituted a new "next-day" follow up program on larcenies. The crime prevention unit of the police conducts an awareness program to "correct risk situations" at the scene of the larceny the day after the incident. The awareness program operates at the same time the Criminal Investigation Unit (the undercover cops) searches for clues, interviews potential witnesses and fingerprints the building where the larceny occurred. Lt. Lawrence Fennelli has visited the Houses and the Freshman Union, conducting informal talks with undergraduates to raise their level of crime awareness. As Chafin says, the community has to cooperate in order to keep crime down.
"Woman screaming on Chauncy and Garden"...Sgt. Peter A. O'Hare, supervisor for the 12 a.m.-to-8 a.m. shift, pulls onto Mass Ave and turns on the speed. Cars block his way--he uses the manual light switch. The cars clear. he turns down Shepard. "Negative, disregard woman screaming." ..."Car 1 to' base...It looks like the woman was just leaving the party at Bertram with a friend."
But crime in the Cambridge area seems to be on the rise. "It's getting bad around here--two years ago it was rare that you had a gun used. Now..." O'Hare's voice drifts off. Five years ago, prompted by the rape and murder of a woman at Longfellow Park between Brattle and Mt. Auburn Streets, the Harvard police began to cooperate with Cambridge police. Now, all cruisers are equipped with Cambridge radios, and many of the calls the police respond to are to assist the Cambridge police.
"It works both ways--we have a good rapport with Cambridge, and that is due to the fact that we're constantly assisting them...They accept it and appreciate it," O'Hare says.
"The dilemma of this University is that you can't police the Harvard area without going onto Cambridge streets and Cambridge's jurisdiction, as opposed to other colleges, where the campus is closed and confined," Shannon says. The apparent rise in violent crime in the Cambridge area appears to account for the overall crime increase registered on the Harvard police computer, because the incidence of crime on Harvard property registers a decline on the same set of statistics.