Crime falls at Yale

Photo by Nick Defiesta.

Yale is seeing statistically less crime on campus.

The past three years have seen numerous successes in the University’s battle against crime — the most recent of which is an annual crime report Yale released Thursday showing that the number of reported crimes dropped by 11 percent during the 2009-’10 school year. The report, which Yale submitted to the Federal Department of Education in compliance with federal law, showed burglaries on and around Yale’s campus more than halved during this period. But despite these numbers, Yale’s Office of Public Affairs and Communications must address misconceptions about campus crime, University spokesman Tom Conroy said.

“Although there’s been a pretty significant decline in crime in New Haven in recent decades, the perception sometimes lags behind reality,” Conroy said. “Everyone should be aware of the facts, and then they’ll conclude rightly that crime is not an issue at Yale.”

Still, serious incidents of crime do still occur. Just this week, on Tuesday, a graduate student was walking in front of the Yale Repertory Theater on Chapel Street around 3:15 a.m. when a man approached, brandished a knife and stole his cellphone and some cash. Less than 10 hours later, another graduate student was punched on Temple and Elm streets and had his bicycle stolen. And when media outlets released statistically dubious reports claiming that the Elm City was the nation’s fourth most dangerous, as happened in May, perceptions of Yale’s crime problem grew even worse.

And whether they are legitimate or not, worries about crime surrounding Yale’s campus do affect potential applicants’ decisions. Judi Rabinovitz, an educational consultant based in Florida, told the News earlier this month that 10 of her female students were interested in the Ivy League, but did not seriously consider Yale because of safety concerns. These students, Rabinovitz said, preferred schools in even bigger cities than New Haven, such as Columbia and Harvard.

But that negative view is far from universal. Another college counselor told the News that she had never had students worry about crime at Yale. Christina Forbush ’92 LAW ’98, a Maryland-based counselor, said that Yale had effectively cleaned up its image.

“I think the name of Yale and the fact that Yale has done so much to make the neighborhoods around it more palatable than in past decades makes it easier to overlook any crime statistics,” Forbush said.

Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins also said public perception of University crime was growing increasingly better.

Still, he admitted, there are concerns for his department, especially every time the city sees a new murder. Twenty-five homicides have hit the city this year, more than it has seen in a single year since 1994.

“Any murder is troubling,” Higgins said. “We can’t make excuses for it.”

And according to an FBI report released last week, even though New Haven reported a drop in crime of about 9 percent over the past year, it remains the city with the most violent crime in Connecticut.

Higgins sends campuswide emails after every crime near the University, and these messages constitute a major component of Yale’s efforts to battle misconceptions about crime, Conroy said. He added that the campus crime statistics, released on Thursday, show that Yale is just as safe as every “equivalent” school.

The report, submitted to the Federal Department of Education to comply with the Jeanne Clery Act, also shows a rise in arrests for alcohol and drug violations on campus between 2009 and 2010. But while 2010 saw a spike in disciplinary action by the University in drug-related cases, administrators disciplined fewer students for alcohol-related infringements.

Total reported crime incidents were down from 311 incidents to 274. The crime level, however, did not change much from 2008, when 280 incidents were reported.

While reported forcible sex offenses on and around campus increased from 13 to 21 between 2009 and 2010, the number of incidents still remains lower than in 2008, when 25 were reported.

Yale came under fire in May for underreporting sex offenses to the Department of Education. After a seven-year-long investigation into the Yale Police Department, the department found that Yale violated the Clery Act by failing to report details from four forcible sex offenses from 2001 and 2002. Since those omissions, DOE case director Nancy Giffords wrote to the University that it has almost entirely corrected its reporting practices.

The DOE investigation began as a result of an article published in a 2004 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine titled “Lux, Veritas and Sexual Trepass,” which questioned the University’s handling of information regarding sex-related offenses.

The number of reported burglaries has come down dramatically since 2007, when the University recorded 166 incidents, more than triple the number reported in 2010.

Despite the fall in the number of reported burglaries on campus, students experienced robberies with slightly more frequency. There were 14 incidents in 2010, up from 10 in 2009 but equal to 2008’s total.