Over the weekend, three people were mugged on or around campus — all, perhaps, by one man wielding a serrated kitchen knife — and from what we have seen, no one has panicked. This is significant. In notorious New Haven, where the credo seems to be “never walk alone at night,” and at cloistered Yale, where big news happens, circulates and distorts in a matter of hours, this relative nonreaction is a response worth considering.
We believe it is a single, prompt e-mail sent out Monday by campus police chief James Perrotti that stopped the flurry of speculation. That, we hope, will be a telling effect and that University administrators and police will take note. When something happens to Yale students, it is best to let us know as early as possible.
For evidence, compare the fallout from the muggings of this weekend to that of the assault of two female students in one weekend around this time last fall. A year ago, two unrelated armed robberies were conflated with a wave of purse-snatchings that occurred one week earlier and, absent any prompt explanation of what was going on, the rumors swirled. Suddenly, word was that Asian women were being targeted. A co-moderator of the Asian American Student Alliance sent out an e-mail to affiliated students claiming there had been 20 separate incidents. Dean Saveena Dhall, director of the Asian American Cultural Center, held an emergency meeting to discuss student security. Eventually, the police and University administrators sent a note to students, sifting through the stories and explaining what had actually happened.
This time, when in two days three people reported being mugged, the campus response has been much different. Within 24 hours of the crimes, students received an e-mail detailing the event and recommending we take care not to walk alone at night. There was no long delay between the incidents and when members of the community heard about them, and so there was no chance for widespread hysteria in the meantime.
No one wants to receive an e-mail update every time a freshman is cited for underage drinking, nor do we think regular safety updates, which some colleges send to students on a weekly basis, are desirable or necessary. Crime happens in New Haven. Despite Yale’s sunny viewbooks and reassuring tour guides, that fact and this city’s reputation escape no one. We believe, though, that it is in the University’s best interests — that is to say, it would be better for both Yale’s public image and for Yale’s students — if the campus police operated on a policy of higher disclosure.
We further urge the campus police to post a daily or weekly crime blotter on its Web site so students interested in knowing what happens will be able to find out easily. Yale is a private university, and so its police are not required to disclose day-to-day arrests. Still, we can think of few reasons for why this information should not be public and plenty of reasons — peace of mind chief among them — for why it should be.