Following the recent resignations and retirements of officers, the Yale Police Department has found itself understaffed and is relying on overtime work to maintain the department’s level of patrols, YPD Lt. Michael Patten said at a security meeting in Davenport College Monday night.
Patten discussed understaffing and other security issues with more than 50 Davenport residents in a response to the Oct. 27 mugging of one of their peers outside Shaw’s Supermarket. This meeting, organized by Davenport Master Richard Schottenfeld, was the first time students had a chance to discuss their security concerns with a YPD official in a formal setting.
University Secretary Linda Lorimer said the YPD plans to hold similar events involving students in the near future.
“We are trying to have numerous security briefings so that we can reach out to different groups of students in a variety of ways,” she said.
Although the YPD hired two new officers last month, these officers will not be patrolling by themselves until June, Patten said. He said the department will recruit further in January.
“We are in the process of getting our department up to the level it is supposed to be at,” he said. “We will try to get five more people in January and they will probably be out on their own in September.”
Schottenfeld said he thinks students will be able to better understand security issues if they can talk directly to the people involved in their enforcement.
“My own sense is that getting the input from them is most direct and most persuasive in terms of helping people change habits,” he said.
Several students posed questions at the meeting about whether crime has increased significantly over the past year and asked if Patten had any theories. But Patten said he does not think the cause of crime in New Haven has changed significantly this year, though it may be partly due to the large increase in the release of criminal offenders from prison.
“As many prisoners have been released as of September as over the whole of 2004,” Patten said.
Matt Huttner ’07 said the meeting was helpful for him, and he thinks it is important to inform students on how to act in order to ensure their safety. But he said he thinks that many students are not heeding the YPD’s warnings.
“The meeting did comfort me because it informed me about what actions the police are taking for dealing with the rise in crime,” he said. “I think the unfortunate part is the belief among some students that it won’t happen to them.”
But Andrew Strand ’07 said while he thinks the steps taken by the YPD have been constructive, he did not find the meeting to be productive.
“Campus security has been so widely publicized that everyone who came to the meeting was very well informed,” he said.
Since the beginning of the school year, the YPD has responded to the rise in crime with a number of measures, Patten said. Patrols have increased throughout campus and Yale security will operate in the future from a building next to Lot 80, where they will organize the dispatch and operation of Yale buses, he said. The YPD is also working in close cooperation with New Haven Police Department officials, Patten said.
“We are working with the New Haven Police Department to try to identify some of the people, because there are names that keep appearing on both our radar screens,” he said.
Some students from other colleges said they are unsure about whether the meetings will be beneficial.
Branford College resident Camelle Scott ’07 said she would not attend a safety meeting in her residential college because she thinks students are already aware of the steps they need to take to act safely.
But Lee Seymour ’09 said he would like to put a face to the multitude of e-mails sent by the YPD in response to specific instances of crime.
“That would definitely be useful, as they’ve only been sending e-mails that many students pay little attention to,” he said.
Schottenfeld said he will recommend at Friday’s Council of Masters meeting that other residential colleges host similar meetings.