Facing Crime on Campus

Spike in crime sparks increased measures for safety

Sirui Li, GARY L. NORRIS, and Xi Yu

In late October and November, Harvard students received a flood of emails from the Harvard University Police Department about crimes occurring on and near campus. The sudden spike in violent crime caused many to question their safety and change their daily habits.

“I remember I kept getting email [advisories] on different nights,” says Emily K. Harburg ’11, a resident of Mather House. “It was a bit of a surprise to me—you get in the bubble, and you feel really sheltered and comfortable.”

Harburg used to take shortcut paths and smaller streets when walking back to her House at night, but she then switched to paths that were more “socially in Harvard” as opposed to the shorter ones after reading the alerts.

Similarly, Nicole K. Kapu ’14 quickened her pace as she walked through the dimly lit sidewalk from Lamont at night as she crossed the Barker Center on her way to her dorm in Hurlbut.

Benjamin A. Silva ’14, in his first semester at Harvard, was walking with two male friends on Brattle Street early November at 2 a.m. when a man attempted to rob them at gunpoint.



“I was in a very safe position . . . I was with two others.” Silva says. “I was doing all those things.”

The Harvard University Campus Escort Program made 40 escorted trips in November, doubling the number of trips they made during November 2009, according to information provided by HUPD spokesperson Steven G. Catalano in December. Prior to the spike, only 10 trips had been made in the month of October, indicating that students turned to available safety resources after the increase in crime.

Though according to the Cambridge Police Department, violent crime and robberies in Cambridge from 2009 to 2010 decreased by 3 and 5 percent, respectively, the University experienced 10 robberies on or near campus between Oct. 30 and Nov. 21—eight of which took place in the first two weeks.

In response to the increase in crime, the College and students began to take cautionary measures while HUPD and Cambridge police tracked and investigated the incidents.

Through the combination of increased communication at biweekly meetings and open sharing of data with civilians and neighboring police departments, CPD was able to address the worrying trend and arrest suspects who were allegedly involved in the robberies.

The spike in robberies prompted changes in HUPD and CPD policing procedures as the departments coordinated their efforts to control and minimize crime in Cambridge.


The string of crimes that began at the end of October and stretched into late November were spread throughout Harvard Square, ranging from around Mass. Ave., near the Quad, to inside the Yard.

The crime wave began with a robbery at the Harvard University Credit Union on Oct. 30, when an unarmed man stole $8,372 in cash from the bank, according to HUPD. No one was harmed.

Two days later, two Harvard affiliates were robbed at knifepoint six minutes apart by two men near the Harvard Divinity School. One victim received a stab wound, and the suspects stole the victim’s cell phone, wallet, and cash after the victim refused to comply with the demand for the victim’s possessions.


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