The Yale Police Department and University security officials met last night with students living off campus to outline the steps Yale is taking to address a recent increase in crime in the area.
Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, Yale Police Chief James Perrotti and other University officials said these plans include increasing the police presence, installing more streetlights, pruning trees and installing more blue phones in the Dwight, Edgewood and Lynwood areas.
“We have police officers out there all the time, walking up and down your streets,” Highsmith said.
Perrotti noted that the YPD had added plainclothes units and were working with a similar unit in the New Haven Police Department.
“So far it’s been great,” he said. “They’ve told me they haven’t seen a lot out there.”
In an interview with the News, Highsmith said it had been Saybrook College Master Mary Miller’s idea to hold the meeting as a response to what Highsmith described as an unprecedented amount of crime around Yale.
“There have been more crimes right around campus than I can remember happening at the beginning of a semester,” she said.
Highsmith noted there have been more crimes reported in the area around the Divinity School, and said new blue phones will be placed in the area. But she said blue phones can only be installed on Yale property.
“We can’t just put blue phones anywhere,” she said, adding that the same criteria also applied to securing increased lighting and pruning trees off-campus.
The administrators said they were optimistic that their methods would produce results.
“A general presence in this neighborhood will help. Any kind of presence in one area has an effect,” Highsmith said.
The officials said they were making efforts to increase security awareness on-campus as well. Among other things, Security Education Coordinator Susan Burhans said that the University was starting a “Security Awareness Poster Contest,” to be judged by Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, University Secretary Linda Lorimer and Yale College Council President Steven Syverud ’06.
The 14 students who attended last night’s meeting had many questions for the administrators about their plans. One student, who wished to remain anonymous, wanted to know which police department she should have called after a stray bullet was lodged in her window.
“The New Haven Police showed a lack of concern,” she said.
When Perrotti and others began to suggest that she go to a community management team at one of the police substations, Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg interrupted them.
“A bullet just went through her window. Who does she call?” Trachtenberg said.
Perrotti clarified that, in case of emergency, the YPD would respond. He also stressed to everyone the necessity of taking small steps to increase safety, such as leaving exterior lights on and buying steering wheel locks for vehicles. Highsmith said she agreed.
“A porch light is a little tiny thing that makes a huge difference,” she said.
Many of the crimes have been committed by roving gangs on bicycles. Perrotti said that the YPD had stopped at least 20 bicycle groups in order to identify them and find out where they lived.
“A lot of them are just riding their bikes,” he said.
After the meeting, Thomas Frampton ’06 said he was disappointed by the officials’ response to the situation.
“I think it’s instructive that top Yale officials are focusing on pruning and lighting but don’t put the same focus on increasing after-school programs,” he said.