Off-campus safety must be Yale priority

It’s hard to square the two stories with one another. On the one hand, the Yale community is informed of yet another armed robbery, this time on Edgewood Avenue. And on the other hand, we hear that the city police union is challenging the Yale police, essentially for patrolling too much in the areas where recent crimes have been committed.

The spike in crime in the Ward 2 area seems to suggest an obvious solution: Create a stronger police presence there. But for city police, the neighborhood isn’t the first priority for deploying the department’s limited resources. And yet an increased role for Yale Police risks increasing tensions with the city, since the New Haven police union isn’t eager for Yale officers to take the hours — and the overtime pay — that come with patrolling what has traditionally been New Haven Police Department turf.

For Yale, though, the key priority is ensuring that students are safe. It is not enough to say that undergraduates assume a certain degree of risk when they move off-campus; after all, even those who live on campus often travel into outlying neighborhoods to attend a party or work on a project with a classmate. In other words, Yale will not have done all it can to safeguard campus security unless it offers protection from crime in the Ward 2 neighborhoods, too.

Of course, Yale cannot flatly disregard the concerns of New Haven police officers, and Yale must also be aware that city residents without an affiliation to the University may, rightly or wrongly, feel as though Yale police officers are not looking out for their best interests. But these are pitfalls that must be solved as quickly as possible, even if a solution requires the University to spend more for the increased coverage.

The University must also look at ways to fight crime that move beyond increasing patrols. It’s distressing to realize that a Yale Police substation located on Park Street — not far from the site of Sunday’s attempted robbery — was closed in December 2003, with its replacement located far away near the Medical School. Almost two years later, the wisdom of that decision is worth questioning. Likewise, Yale should take a proactive role in organizing community block watches and spreading blue phones, efforts that avoid the thorny issues of police union politics.

And with so much of the crime being committed by young men, the University has an interest and an obligation to help the Ward 2 community with youth outreach efforts. Across the city, community leaders are connecting the dots between a lack of youth programs and an uptick in crime. Yale — with its vast resources and a core of volunteers — should be at the forefront of providing alternative activities for those young adults who are currently turning to crime. Just as the Rose Center in the Dixwell neighborhood is meant to combine a police presence with community outreach, Yale must look to the off-campus areas of Ward 2 as a place to both engage local residents and increase security.

Keeping Yale students safe will require navigating city politics and thinking creatively. If the past three weeks are any indication, we can’t afford to wait.

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