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Editorial -- It's Time to Get Serious About Safety

MIT remains unprepared to deal with the consequences of its location near a relatively dangerous area of Cambridge. The time has come for Institute officials to take decisive action to increase the safety of the community, particularly students.

We urge MIT to install automatic locking devices with card readers programmed to read MIT identification cards on every main entry door on campus. These card readers should be active from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day. Secondary entrances should be completely locked by the Campus Police during these hours. The reasons are simple, and the potential benefits far outweigh the costs.

Card-reading locks will first and foremost make the corridors of MIT safer. Despite the efforts of the Campus Police, suspicious people continue to roam MIT's halls and courtyards, loitering and sleeping in unlocked rooms. With card readers, these people will find entering the Institute more difficult.

But perhaps a more important effect is the increased security awareness these new locks will create. One of the drawbacks of MIT's open campus is the false sense of security it instills in students, an attitude that prevails even a few short weeks after the murder of a student. Locked doors and card readers will remind every member of the MIT community to about the importance of security each time they enter or leave a campus building at night, immensely increasing awareness.

One drawback to this plan is the cost of such a system. Each lock would cost around $3,000; student and staff ID cards would have to be encoded. Essential entrances such as the ends of the Infinite Corridor, the point of Building 66, and the main Killian Court entrances should be equipped with card readers. A few other doors might also be included, bringing the possible cost close to $50,000. This is a pittance, however, compared to the potential savings in human misfortune.

Admittedly, this plan is not a complete solution to the campus crime problem. But it will add a practical dimension to MIT's handling of the problem that many other inner-city college campuses have already embraced.