As throngs of newly admitted students arrive on campus today, University officials said they hope new Yalies will be able to see through what some call an antiquated stereotype of Yale as an ivory tower located in a crime-ridden city.
Yale Police Department Lt. Michael Patten said that although Yale has had security issues in the past, the University has instituted new security measures that have effectively stopped the vast majority of street crimes, including robberies and muggings.
Patten said that in response to last fall’s wave of robberies, in which a number of students were mugged in various locations on and around campus, the University has worked with the New Haven Police Department to increase police presence in surrounding residential areas that are occupied primarily by Yale students. In addition to better nighttime lighting and walking patrols, Patten said, the YPD has taken a community-based approach to policing neighborhoods, a trend he says most major police departments have found effective in addressing the underlying issues behind crime.
“There is progress being made,” he said. “[We try] to get closer to the community, [by] finding out what’s going on and seeing what we can do about it.”
In comparison to Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia, Yale reported the second highest number of on-campus burglaries in 2004, the last year for which data is currently available. Harvard had the highest number, reporting 372 on-campus burglaries, while Yale reported 82 incidents. Columbia reported 16 burglaries, the fewest among the four schools.
Ted Molson, a Princeton freshman, said Princeton students often view Yale as an unsafe campus situated in the middle of a run-down and crime-ridden city.
“I would say that it is commonly seen as an unsafe campus,” he said. “I hear that athletes have to take a bus to the facilities, that Yale is a closed campus and that generally the greatest problem with Yale is the fact that it is so dangerous.”
Patten said such stereotypes of Yale’s campus are unfortunate, but that he thinks most students see through them. David Williams ’08 said he feels safe and secure living in New Haven.
“I like it because it’s a real place,” he said. “It’s not too perfect, but it’s generally a safe place to live if you keep in mind that you’re living in a city.”
With the recent opening of the Rose Center, a joint police station and community center in the Dixwell neighborhood bordering campus, Patten said the YPD has stepped beyond its normal role of reacting to crime. The department, he said, is also focused on crime prevention.
Although he said crime is unavoidable in an urban environment, Patten said students who choose city life can greatly reduce their risk of being robbed by remaining vigilant of their surroundings at all times and walking in pairs at nighttime. If walking alone is unavoidable, Patten said, students should take advantage of the University bus routes and 2-WALK, a number that students can call from campus phones for walking escorts.
Patten said that despite the fact that the University has contributed extensive resources toward fighting crime, he said prefrosh often come to visit Yale with the misconception that New Haven is a dangerous place to live. But like Williams, Harvard sophomore Boris Van said that when he visited friends at Yale last November, he found the Yale campus to have a certain “New England charm.”
“There is a stereotype that appears in a lot of jokes about Yale, but I don’t think many people actually know what the situation is,” Van said.