Grad students see less off-campus crime

Michael Jones ’12 heard a rustling in the blinds in his Sigma Phi Epsilon room Tuesday night. When he turned, he saw a man climbing through his window. Yelling that he would call the police, Jones scared the man off, but later found an knife and some of his housemate’s property — including checkbooks — lying in his backyard.

As a vehicle pulled up early last Friday morning to the corner of York and Crown streets — one block from the School of Architecture and the Yale University Art Gallery — a passenger leaned out of the window and fired a shot into the side of another car.

A stolen car was driven down Edgewood Avenue on Wednesday evening, chased by New Haven Police Department cruisers. The thieves pulled the car into a driveway of student off-campus housing at 52 Edgewood, crashed into a brick wall and ran off in different directions.

These incidents, all in the past week, represent a slice of the type of crimes that are unheard of on campus, but that strike areas just a few blocks away where off-campus Yalies live. Though Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner said that Yale’s campus and the surrounding student residential areas record some of the lowest crime statistics for urban areas in the country, off-campus students — and especially graduate students, the majority of who live off campus — do occasionally experience some of the crime that is more typical of New Haven’s more crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Indeed, some graduate students who have been victims of crime say their experiences are not the same as those of Yale College students.

“Graduate students don’t live in residential colleges or walk around highly trafficked roads and streets all the time,” said Yoni Cohen LAW ’12, who was mugged last October. “I probably spend more time walking around downtown in the evening than most undergraduates.”

City neighborhoods such as the Hill, Dixwell and Newhallville post some of the highest crime rates in the city, and all abut residential Yale communities. Despite this proximity, Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins says there is no evidence that residents living in off-campus neighborhoods experience more crime than those who live on campus.

The YPD recorded 277 overall criminal incidents last year in its 2010 Uniform Crime Report, well below 2009’s 393 incidents, and the lowest overall crime rate in 20 years, according to Higgins and Lindner. Lindner added that data shows criminal incidents are steadily decreasing in the off-campus areas immediately adjacent to campus.

That statistic bodes well for crime situation, but offers little comfort to graduate students who have repeatedly been the victims of crimes during their stays in the Elm City.

Lisa Levy DIV ’12 said that since moving to New Haven roughly three years ago, she has been mugged on Dwight Street, her house on Whitney Avenue has been broken into and her car was stolen. Although Levy characterized herself as an “unlucky” outlier, she said she thinks Yale administrators downplay New Haven’s crime rate.

“I’ve lived in high-crime areas in Houston, Tex., and Syracuse, N.Y., before and have never had a problem with crime,” Levy said. “I do think New Haven is a bit different, but I know there is only so much administrators can do.” She added that YPD officers were helpful when her car was stolen.

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Lisa Brandes GRD ’94 said she more often hears graduate students complain of petty theft — such as having a bike or laptop stolen — than violent crimes. Still, she said she cautions graduate students to walk in pairs and use shuttles, especially when walking in higher-crime areas such as the downtown area.

“Graduate students tend to live in more diverse housing areas than undergraduates,” Brandes said to explain why graduate students tend to experience crime more often than their counterparts in Yale College. “But obviously walking around alone at 2 a.m. is not good for anybody.”

Still, she added that she believes most graduate student neighborhoods are safer now than when she was a Yale graduate student roughly two decades ago.

Higgins said campus crime has declined over the years thanks to the high funding levels the University offers the police department.

“I’d like to see another city that puts as many resources into public safety as Yale University does,” Higgins said. “The efforts the University has made to make Yale a safe place is really top shelf.”

Still, crimes, sometimes serious, are occurring off campus, and Higgins said the YPD tries to identify problem areas and respond accordingly as soon as possible.

The evening after the potentially armed burglary at Sigma Phi Epsilon, YPD officers and Higgins himself spent about an hour canvassing the neighborhood and talking to residents near the High Street “Frat Row.”


  • newhaven

    Thanks for highlighting this. All cities have some crime and precautions are helpful, but not always enough. At Columbia and NYU, students were recently killed after being pushed into traffic during muggings.

    Cities have a lot of people, though – statistically speaking, the risk of severe injury from living outside a city and driving everywhere is many times greater, due to car crashes, than the risk of living even in a very high crime neighborhood (unless you are personally involved in illegal activities).

    The risks seem to be greater in some areas like Dwight Street when compared to East Rock, which is quite safe. The NHPD needs to step up patrols in areas with recurring problems or find a way to hire cheaper, but equally effective and visible, paraprofessional security staff, like what Yale PD and the downtown business district do. This would be a great topic for the YDN to investigate next.

  • yeahright

    Raising the gap and closing the bars !

  • claypoint2

    “and especially graduate students, the majority of who live off campus”

    Whom. The majority of who**m**. Please, let’s aim to get our basic grammar right.

  • manhattan

    To newhaven: I like your defense of city life but would like to offer some additional information for context.

    Both the NYU undergraduate and the Columbia graduate student you refer to were killed by passing cars when they ran into the street to escape while being mugged. They were not pushed into traffic. The NYU student died in April 2006 and the Columbia student in April 2008, which may or may not be considered recent. Also, the NYU student was jumped at 125th and Park, nowhere near NYU.

    You seem to be equating danger from crime in New York City with danger from crime in New Haven. Here are the comparative statistics:

    The YDN reports 25 homicides in New Haven year to date as of Sept. 5, 2011. New Haven has a population of about 130,000.

    The NYPD reports nine homicides year to date as of September 4, 2011, in the reporting area Manhattan South, which covers Manhattan below 59th Street. NYPD reports 37 homicides at 9/4/11 for Manhattan North, which covers Manhattan above 59th Street.

    Total homicides in Manhattan as of 9/4/11 therefore are 46 against a resident population of approximately 1.6 million persons, which does not include a very large commuter population which adds 1 million persons per day. Counting commuters, Manhattan has a daytime population of about 2.8 million ( Then add a sizable tourist population and one sees that the homicide rate in Manhattan is low.

    So the two tragic deaths you cite should not be taken to mean that crime levels in Manhattan and New Haven are equivalent.

  • joey00

    Headlines are misleading.Vehicles stolen off-campus are smashed into off campus abodes…

  • smartypants79

    This is the worst headline ever. This article doesn’t bear it out. Grad students are not exposed to less crime. We are exposed to less crime that is reported by Ronnell Higgins and Chief Perotti. And even from their emails, many of the people who have been mugged in recent memory have been grad students.
    Another piece of the story is a new headline “unsafe for most grad students to walk home at night”–most grad students live up in east rock, which is a safer neighborhood than dixwell or something, but it’s not safe for us to walk back there from campus. We don’t have the benefit of giant gates and 24-7 security like in the colleges.

    End result: new haven is not this safe place that chief higgins tried to make it seem in that email earlier this semester.