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Crime and Safety in New Haven
Annie Le

Yale University is an intellectual hub consisting of over 11, 000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, and over 11, 000 faculty and staff. With so many members, the Yale community is protected by a full-service police force that works in conjunction with the City of New Haven. Despite safety measures such as door-to-door escort and shuttle services, the Yale community is still plagued with thefts, some involving frightening confrontations. According to the Department of Education, Yale's on-campus motor vehicle thefts have doubled since 2005. Overall, theft on Yale campuses has increased by 59%, totaling to 162 reported events in 2007. By comparison, neighboring Quinnipiac University in Hamden has at most two thefts per year. Southern Connecticut State University, also located in New Haven, albeit further away from the downtown area, had a mere 10 thefts on its campus in 2007. Such numbers do not bode well for Yale. According to CNN Money Magazine, the City of New Haven has 7 times as much personal crime compared to the average for "safe" cities in the United States.

How does Yale compare to other Ivy Leagues (football stats aside)? In 2006, Columbia University's Morningside and Medical campuses reported 168 thefts, almost the same number as Yale, yet Columbia University had twice the number of students enrolled. University of Pennsylvania experienced only 53 thefts, also with over 22,000 students. Harvard's Cambridge and Longwood campuses reported 324 thefts combined for their 26, 000 students. As it stands, Yale experiences more thefts per student than any of these metropolitan Ivy League institutions. Well, at least Yale graduates have the highest earning potential of this sample, according to BusinessWeek magazine.

Most students are all too familiar with emails with the subject: "Message from Chief Perrotti" detailing the latest robbery. What can one do to avoid becoming another unnamed victim in these emails? We sat down with Chief James Perrotti of Yale University Police (yes, he is real) to discuss precautions that members of the Yale community can take. On their end, the Yale University Police have increased their presence in the East Rock neighborhood, the scene of a rash of Fall semester robberies that were, thankfully, solved. The additional patrols from 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM have succeeded in keeping the area quiet. Chief Perrotti assured us that "quality of life issues are on top of [his] list."

The Chief provided us with these handy tips forcrime prevention:
1. Pay attention to where you are.
2. Avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim.
3. Do not be distracted by ipods and phone
calls.
4. Reduce your exposure (use the Yale escort
and shuttle services).
5. Walk with a purpose.
6. Keep a minimum amount on your person.

As an illustration of tip #6, Chief Perrotti pointedly provided us with an exclusive look at his wallet, a small leather fold with a little cash, driver's license, and only one credit card. "Chances are, you don't need all the stuff in your wallet on a day-to-day basis," he commented. This is all well and good, but what should we do if, heaven forbid, we were being robbed?

Chief Perrotti recommended that, for our personal safety, we cooperate within reason and then call it in immediately. In the meantime, make as many observations as possible regarding clothing, facial hair or distinct facial details (if unmasked), and other physical features. These are the usual, but Chief Perrotti added one twist: the shoes. "The shoes are very important because they can shed the clothing along the way… shoes are unique," he explained. As for car thefts, Yale Police is not required to send out emails regarding those, but since Yale car thefts have doubled in the past three years, it is noteworthy to point out that the length of time it appears to take to steal a car is inversely proportional to a thief's motivation to attempt it. In other words, make the car look like it will take more time and effort to steal. Cheap options include the standard steering wheel lock, affectionately known as "The Club" (about $25) and a brake lock ($30). Even simple $2 decals warning potential thieves that the vehicle is protected by an alarm system can be a deterrent. Spending a little money to up the intimidation factor could really be the difference between walking out to your car at the end of a long day in lab versus the police finding your car stripped and abandoned at McDonald's. Chief Perrotti's final point was that "crime prevention is nothing more than recognizing a risk and taking steps to prevent it." In short, New Haven is a city, and all cities have their perils, but with a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic.
In case you haven't been watching the news Annie Le was the young woman at Yale found strangled and stuffed in a wall. That was an article that was written by her earlier this year.

The police and our society failed that young woman. At no point did she mention the Police Chief stating, "your attacker may not just want your wallet, he or she might not want your wallet at all, your attacker might want to take your humanity, your dignity, maim or scar you permanently or even take your very life." The police chief did not say that you have to be ready and willing to fight for your life with whatever you have at your disposal. He didn't say to this young woman, carry a tool to defend yourself, take classes so you know how to hurt and get away, scream kick run stab FIGHT. The official word was "cooperate and then call us." Society obviously didn't equip the young woman with the tools to call BS on the police and take responsibility for herself. In fact, society would demand that the university disarm her if she were ready and willing to defend her life with force.

Why the hell do we put up with this crap? Do our leaders and police truly think that a nation of victims is safer than a nation of strong men and women ready and able to defend themselves and others? It seems that they do, and it seems that too many of us have drank the Kool-Aid. There's a very good chance that young woman may still be alive if the police chief would only have told her the truth and the university would allow citizens the tools to defend themselves.
 
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