Yale’s university-wide report on campus security in 2004, released last Friday, shows an increase in the number of burglaries and thefts committed on campus in that year, although University officials said the report contains raw data which does not necessarily reflect an overall rise in crime.
In comparison to Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia, Yale reported the second highest number of on-campus burglaries in 2004. Harvard had the highest number, reporting 372 on-campus burglaries, while Yale reported 82 incidents. Columbia reported 16 burglaries, the fewest number of burglaries of any school in the comparison.
Still some students said they would have expected Columbia to have the most burglaries because of its location.
“It’s in the middle of New York City, close to Harlem,” Lee-Shing Chang ’08 said. “I expected Columbia to have more burglaries than Yale, because we’re in a much smaller city.”
Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the 30 percent increase in the number of burglaries and thefts reported by Yale, from 63 percent in 2003 to 82 percent last year, is not alarming and may reflect a change in the definition of what is counted as a burglary rather than an increase in crime. Currently, the law has strict guidelines as to what constitutes a burglary, she said.
“Burglary usually involves theft, but with an element of trespassing on someone’s property. Now the law requires us to report it as a burglary if we are unsure.”
While Highsmith said the purpose of the security report statistics is to provide a standardized method for comparing crime rates at different schools, she said the numbers are raw data and do not provide a thorough perspective on crime.
“There are so many different kinds of campuses,” she said. “Some are urban, some are in more secluded areas. Each school has a different environment and crime rates often vary accordingly.”
But many students said they thought Columbia takes campus security seriously because of the university’s location in Manhattan. Steven Chien ’08 said he thought Columbia’s relatively low number of burglaries was the result of strict security measures enforced by the University.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that Columbia has such low numbers,” he said. “When you go up to see someone In their dorm, you have to leave your driver’s license or some type of I.D. Unlike Yale, they know who’s in the building at all times.”
Highsmith said many of the incidents at Yale could have been prevented if students themselves practiced simple security measures.
“Almost every single [robbery] occurs because the door was not locked,” she said.
The 2004 report also shows that no arrests were made at Yale for liquor law violations, highlighting what some students said was a positive reflection on the alcohol policy of the Yale Police Department. Harvard also had no arrests made on campus, while Princeton, UPenn and Columbia showed increases in this area.
“I think that the police probably are lenient, but I think that’s a good thing,” Josh Bone ’08 said. “I think Yale approaches it as a health issue rather than a legal issue which encourages a positive atmosphere where people can come forward if they need are sick or need help.”
But YPD Lt. Michael Patten said that the lack of arrests is not due to lenient policing, but rather to state statutes that allow possession of alcohol by underage students if they are on private property.
“There is no state law in Connecticut that prohibits the possession of alcohol by underage people on private property,” he said. “If we were going to get them on something it would have to be distribution of alcohol to underage people, which is tough to prove.”
Patten said the report does not include fraternities because the data only covers property owned by Yale. Statistics on off-campus crimes, including arrests made at fraternities, are released by the NHPD.
Federal law requires all colleges and universities to disclose annual information about campus crime and security policies. The numbers reported by universities and colleges, however, are not verified by the Department of Education.
Patten said that although he thinks the statistics can be useful for public, they are not timely enough to assist the police in changing their policy.
“Maybe it sheds some light on the school environment for the public, but we can’t wait that long,” he said. “We meet everyday to discuss where crime is happening and how to prevent it.”
Instead of waiting each year for the University to release crime statistics, the YPD holds a series of meetings dubbed Crime Awareness and Reduction Strategies, Patten said.