In an attempt to strengthen ongoing conversation between students and the Yale Police Department, the Yale College Council released its “Campus Safety Report” on Tuesday.
The report, which synthesizes student opinions gathered throughout the term about campus safety resources, identified an array of safety issues ranging from poor illumination to insufficient safety services. The findings of the report were transferred to the YPD and to other members of the administration, who are currently taking action to make improvements based on the student suggestions, said Janet Lindner, associate vice president for administration.
“We are eager to work with the YCC, and with all students, to identify ways to improve campus safety,” Lindner said. “I have read the report and take it very much to heart. I’m meeting with a team from police, security, transportation and facilities to go over each recommendation to see what improvements we can make.”
YCC President John Gonzalez ’14 said the YCC took the initiative to compile student safety concerns for the YPD after students voiced complaints about poor lighting and safety services in the fall. The 19-page report compiled feedback generated through a form on the YCC’s website, a crowdsourcing Google Document that was sent to all undergraduates on Nov. 13, and a lighting patrol conducted by YCC representatives to investigate areas around campus where students reported poor lighting conditions.
Combining these three sources, the report concluded that “the biggest concern that students had regarding student safety dealt with inadequate lighting around campus.” Areas identified included Temple Street in front of Timothy Dwight College, Dwight Street between Edgewood and Elm, Hillhouse Avenue, and Sachem Street by Ingalls Rink.
In response to the popular outcry for better lighting on campus, the YCC sent students to inspect the areas reported and ensure the complaints were valid. The lighting patrol led to the identification of over 30 lighting problems, including 19 instances in which streetlights were either missing or nonfunctional and five areas where lights were flickering or malfunctioning.
“As a general trend, lighting on campus was not bad, but as soon as we walked off campus, we noticed many more lighting problems,” said YCC associate member Andrew Grass ’16, who helped conduct the inspection.
As shown on a map included in the YCC report, these poorly lit areas often coincide with the locations of some of the 10 reported crime incidents that have occurred this academic year. Dwight Street, for instance, was the location of two recent robberies — one on Sept. 25, involving a graduate student, and one on Oct. 13, involving a Yale staff member. Likewise, a robbery was reported on Dec. 4 on Grove Street near High Street, another area that was identified as needing lighting improvements.
“I‘m not going to imply causation, but there is an association between streets that were poorly lit and various areas where there’s been mugging or assault,” Grass said.
On the question of safety services, the YCC report noted a handful of complaints from students about the resources available to students. In particular, according to the report, students lamented the limited presence of police officers in certain areas, as well as the “long wait times for shuttles and security rides that forced students to wait outside in the dark where they felt unsafe.”
In response to these concerns, the report included suggestions for the YPD to enhance campus safety, including increasing the number of vehicles and rides to improve response times, scheduling security rides in advance for groups of students and having additional officers patrolling the areas behind Pierson and near Swing Space.
The YCC also suggested implementing new resources to educate the Yale community, such as an informational safety meeting for off-campus students and workshops with the YPD to register laptops, bikes and other personal belongings.
After releasing the report earlier this week, Gonzalez said he forwarded the report to Higgins and met with the YPD chief on Tuesday to discuss the concerns and suggestions raised by students.
“It’s much better for us to hand in a comprehensive report, than to come to Chief Higgins with ad hoc complaints,” Gonzalez said. “It makes our suggestions much more powerful and will be great for our relationship with the YPD moving forward.”
Following the meeting with the YCC president, Higgins shared the report with members of the YPD and other administrators and will be taking steps to make the appropriate changes.
“I see this as core to community policing — it’s a partnership that requires mutual respect and joint problem solving,” Higgins said. “Campus safety isn’t just a policing issue, it’s a community issue and our police strategies are always evolving.”
Lindner said that, upon reviewing the areas identified by students through the YCC report, she has reached out to the University’s Office of Facilities and will be collaborating with representatives from the City of New Haven to restore any lights that are out or flickering and make any necessary lighting improvements.
Gonzalez was elected YCC president last April.