Those of us who were at Yale last fall no doubt remember having our worst fears about New Haven seemingly confirmed: Before the first week of classes was over, a student was shot in the hand during a robbery and another group of students was mugged at gunpoint just off campus. These were only the first in a rash of crimes that prompted an unprecedented expansion of University security patrols and minibus services, and the News often made the average Yale tour guide’s job much more awkward.
To be fair, the University knew what had to be done, and excepting some highly questionable descriptions of suspects, the Yale Police Department’s response typically struck the right tone. But as violence on the fringes of campus begins to make headlines again, it seems obvious that this problem requires more than shuttle vans or central campus’ plainsclothes officers can provide.
So far, this fall’s violent crimes have raised less public concern within the Yale community for two reasons: University security forces have wisely maintained the past year’s increased manpower, and the relative distance of the crimes from central campus has led some of us to foolishly conclude that they are beyond our concern. But the Div School-area bike muggings are nothing to scoff at, and two far worse incidents should have given this community pause in the past two weeks: the shooting of a 14-year-old boy in front of Shaw’s Supermarket — at 8 p.m. — and a double homicide on the doorstep of the Nursing School.
Within the bounds of central campus, anyone who takes advantage of Yale’s security resources has little to fear. Between the minibus, 2-WALK and the blue phone system, students with sense enough not to walk alone at night won’t be staying in on weekends. But those of us who never think twice about the trip from Branford to Calhoun are hardly without cause to worry while walking to the store or while visiting friends who live off-campus.
With the benefits of the University’s core security network immediately surrounding its residential colleges, the priority now lies in ensuring that students need not fear moving beyond the Yale bubble. To a certain extent, the problem is lack of information: The University is still too reticent to tell us exactly what streets, in light of city crime reports, are proving particularly dangerous; likewise, the New Haven Police Department remains overly tight-lipped when asked about crime statistics.
But there is no denying the effect increased police visibility has had around Old Campus — no one has reported shots fired on the green in a while, for example — and that effect should be extended across campus and beyond. True, policing New Haven should fundamentally be the responsibility of the NHPD, but after more than a few cases in which New Haven police were alleged to have beaten the hell out of Yale students, we feel more comfortable with YPD at our backs.
In the long term, of course, Yale cannot solve this problem by throwing more cops at it. Renewed attention to community building from the administration and student body are essential to the health and safety of Yale and New Haven. But when a kid gets shot in front of the grocery store, short-term solutions demand more than after-school programs, and the Yale community should demand better answers than the ones the tour guides can offer.