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Don't Blame Campus Crime on the Victims

Column by Matthew H. Hersch

Opinion Editor

I never thought I'd have to write something about campus crime again. Alas, I was in error. A problem that was once a mere run-of-the-mill urban blight has crossed over into the realm of the absurdly stupid, and now, it seems, not even our doughnuts are safe.

Let me tell you about pickpocketing. Pickpockets are not bold people. They loathe confrontation. They are not usually armed. They only really proliferate in dim, public areas like airports or street gatherings where a lot of people get mixed up together without adequate police protection.

Why then is it so damn easy to pickpocket MIT students walking through the main entrance at 77 Mass Ave. or the Student Center? Since Nov. 23, three members of the MIT community have been set upon by bandits, pickpocketed in places where they should have been safe.

I'll tell you why. The police presence on this campus is thin, ludicrously thin compared to that on other urban campuses. At Harvard, police officers are really on the ball. At Columbia, there is an officer on every street corner. But at MIT, where you can't walk across Mass. Ave. without getting hit in the head by a smack addict, the Campus Police can do nothing but install emergency phones and tell the students how careless and lazy they are.

Pickpockets, thugs, and psychotic teenagers have invaded MIT because they see easy pickins and no threat of police interdiction. Within the past few months, the CPs have become little more than a custodial service, filling out reports and scraping up bodies.

This rash of pickpocketing, though, is one crime streak that Campus Police Chief Anne P. Glavin cannot blame on the victims. I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect to be able to walk into LaVerde's without having two hoods come up to you and rip your backpack off. I think it's reasonable to expect that if someone reaches behind a MIT student as she walks into Lobby 7 and steals her handbag, that there will be a police officer around to stop him.

As a student and, damn it, a paying client of the Corporation, I expect nothing less, and I will not tolerate the administration's criminal negligence in regard to my safety any more.

Quintuple the police presence on campus. Keep an officer in the Student Center lobby all the time, in Lobby 7 all the time, and in every significant public area all the time.

Campus Police, stop whining and start doing your job. I don't want to buy one of your whistles. I don't want to attend one of your insipid safety lectures. Don't tell me to watch out for myself -- that's your job. I pay your salary. You work for me.