On Tuesday, police arrested a suspect in four robberies that took place on campus this week. Computers, electronics equipment and cash was stolen from student rooms in Davenport, Morse, and Ezra Stiles colleges, sometimes while the students residing in them were asleep. Although every year is peppered by occasional burglaries, the recent rash of them should serve as a wakeup call about our vulnerability to theft. Yale’s physical barriers sometimes provide a false sense of security, and because we have the privelege of living on a relatively open campus, we must take responsibility for our own security.
For the most part, Yale is safe. New Haven is nothing like the city that elicited gasps when we told friends we’d be spending four years at Yale. But still, crime can happen at even the most idyllic of campuses, and protected by Yale’s gothic walls, we sometimes seem to be naive about the need to take security precautions. We think the impressive iron gates that are so ubiquitous are security enough, and don’t even consider locking our entryway or room doors. It’s telling that the recent string of robberies all took place in colleges that still use the lock-and-key entryway doors that can be propped open and left unlocked rather than in the colleges with electronic key card access, which prevents doors from being left open or unlocked.
Living in a dormitory or residential college setting, it seems unfriendly to lock our doors. And yet, living off-campus we would never consider not locking them. This seems a strange dichotomy because on-campus or off, we are living in the same community. Just because we have iron gates on campus doesn’t mean we’re immune to crime. Of course, even when they do remain shut, they don’t guard us from everything. As much as we hate to believe it, students have been known to steal, too.
Given the high concentration of valuable objects college students have, it’s to be expected that we are popular targets of crime. It’s safe to say that a generation or two ago, college students did not acquire and stockpile expensive objects to the same extent we do today. Laptops and iPods and cell phones often just lay around common rooms, creating a quite a tempting collection for someone with robbery in mind.
Other colleges in urban settings have far more drastic security measures. Students at Columbia University have to produce their IDs for a guard every time they enter their dormitory buildings. Guests must sign in with the guard and leave a form of ID with him. But we don’t want to be like Columbia. We appreciate the greater freedom we have to move around and enjoy the feeling of trust we have on campus. However, because we do not have exceedingly strict security rules, we have to be more responsible for ourselves.
Masters often send e-mails reminding us not to prop open entryway doors and to keep our rooms locked, but few of us change our behavior. It’s a fine line we have to walk between trust and security, and it would be unreasonable to assume our admonishments will suddenly turn us into a campus of consistent door-lockers. But we can insure our valuables. We can stop complaining about the electronic entryway doors that prevent us from leaving the door open for friends. Maybe the recent string of burglaries will remind students that if we want to retain the trust, safety, and freedom we have on campus, we have to be responsible with it.