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Harvard's ivy-lined brick edifices and quaint landmarks often present a facade of tranquility. The tourists who flock to the Yard in droves probably assume that this campus is quiet and safe. However, most Harvard students are aware that their campus is not immune to violent crime. Over the past few months, a series of break-ins in Matthews Hall and an assault and attempted rape near Adams House have dramatized just how dangerous Harvard can be. Criminals are roaming the streets of Cambridge, and they see Harvard students as easy prey. There are many precautions that students can use to minimize the risk of becoming a victim of crime. However, the University and the Harvard police must also improve their efforts to promote campus safety.
The victim of the recent attempted rape on Linden St. had taken many security precautions. She is a member of HASTE. She has participated in the Rape Agression Defense seminars. At the time of the incident, she was carrying pepper spray. Still, this woman walking alone among the houses was an easy victim for the criminal.
Her experience shows that while students can attempt to reduce safety risks, the University must also make this campus safer. Harvard's streets and pathways need to be lit brightly at night. Currently, the campus is riddled with poorly lit areas, and criminals can exploit this situation and lurk undetected in the shadows. Installing more street-lights is not a costly improvement--there is no excuse for the University not to improve campus lighting immediately. This situation is even more disturbing given the fact that temporary lighting is installed in the Yard during Commencement week to keep chairs in Tercentenary Theatre from being stolen. This leads us to surmise that the administration cares more about the safety of cheap furniture than the safety of its students. Harvard should be well-lit all year long.
The Harvard police department is also accountable for the poor state of campus security which allows goons to victimize students. Although the new HUPD substation in Weld Hall is a positive improvement, police must do more to protect students. Police officers must patrol the streets much more vigilantly. The increased presence of police cruisers will deter criminals and make students feel more secure. Further, the Harvard police should constantly be on community patrols during the night. The patrols will be most effective if the police officers are on foot, bicycle or motorcycle. Harvard cops sitting in their patrol cars aren't much use to potential crime victims.
Yet the University, no matter how diligent, cannot make the campus completely safe. One of the most significant precautions students can take is to avoid walking alone after dark. We realize that this is difficult for students with busy schedules, who often have organization meetings, study sessions or rehearsals until late at night. However, students should walk with a companion as much as possible. Also, the escort service and the SafetyWalk program are available. Although it may be an inconvenience to wait for an escort shuttle or a SafetyWalk volunteer, students should not hesitate to take advantage of these services, even if it is relatively early in the evening. The assault and attempted rape which occurred near Adams House two weeks ago took place at only 10:45 p.m. Not walking alone is one of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim of violent crime.
Another simple but often overlooked safety precaution is to keep suite doors locked at all times. This is the one sure way to keep criminals from breaking in and stealing valuables. Furthermore, most thefts which happen in the houses probably occur when fellow students take advantage of unlocked doors.
In addition to these basic measures, students can also enroll in programs such as Rape Agression Defense to learn self-defense tactics. Students should not hesitate to report suspicious activity or suspicious people to the police. Although students should not become paranoid, they should be especially wary. We are encouraged that so many students called the police or actively tried to intervene when they heard the student who was recently assaulted outside Adams House screaming for help.
The lure of a safe college town may have encouraged some students to choose Harvard over colleges located in bustling cities or notorious high-crime areas. Yet Harvard is not the safe campus it appears to be, and students must remember to take precautions. Still, we must hold the University responsible for not improving campus security. We would like to see the administration spell out a comprehensive program to improve campus security which includes better lighting and increased police patrols.
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