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Glavin Responds To SafeWalk Concerns

The Tech received a copy of this letter addressed to Jill S. Kliger G:

I feel I must further address some of your conclusions as to what you think the Campus Police think about this issue, especially since you are mistaken in some areas.

First, you should be aware that the Campus Police (myself and two of my staff) trained the Safe Walk students (all 50) for this project. The training was reviewed and approved by its student leadership -- including the issue of boundaries relating to the geographical areas that Safe Walk would cover.

What did we tell them? We said that the boundaries should be the main campus (bordered by Memorial Drive, Vassar Street, Audrey Street, and Wadsworth Street). We set these boundaries because this is consistent with our crime prevention philosophy which we have preached for years to the MIT community. It is a sad fact, but it is unsafe to walk the campus perimeter and city streets after dark, particularly late at night. Safe Walk operates during peak hours of risk: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. The later the hour, the more isolated the streets and the higher the risk of criminal victimization.

If we preach this to the community then we would be remiss to expect a group of students to walk in the very areas we are cautioning against. Safe Walk students have no public safety responsibility (nor should they). They are not police and should not attempt to act as police or anything that looks like a police or security person. That is not their job.

We never signaled out Edgerton as you imply. We did set general geographic boundaries knowing that Safe Ride serviced academic buildings and residences outside the boundaries, i.e., all of Albany Street, MIT property, the Women's Independent Living Group, Random Hall, etc. The student leaders of Safe Walk understood this and agreed with our viewpoint on this matter. We would certainly all agree it is unfortunate, but it is the safest way to conduct this service for everyone's sake.

Your statement that I "will not acknowledge that there is a problem with the current situation regarding safe transportation to Edgerton House" is not accurate. First, there is safe transportation to Edgerton House. Edgerton is a scheduled Safe Ride stop. I agree that Safe Ride does not meet everyone's expectations for speedy service. It is not speedy, for it is a victim of its own success. Safe Ride was "born" for a variety of reasons including: To take the pressure off Campus Police cruiser escorts (we simply could not handle the volume without 20-minute waits). We had never served the student living groups in Boston, and everyone wanted faster service. Safe Ride started with one van, grew to two vans, and then grew to four vans. Each increase doubled the ridership. We now again have the problem of vans filling up too fast.

As to the issue of where Safe Ride should go, a student group worked with us on that issue to select stops. They also created the time schedule so that students can better predict when Safe Ride will arrive (although a variety of factors, most beyond our control, still cause the schedule to run behind at times). We continue to have the problem we have always had: students continually want to add stops to the system but also want fast service. These are reasonable wishes, but the reality is that the present structure of Safe Ride simply can't handle both desires.

Is this the right system? Probably not in the long run, but neither are there unlimited funds for this service. A fast, full-fledged bus service meeting all the desired needs would be very expensive. A formal committee has looked into that issue already.

Your belief that students should be able to go to Campus Police and ask "a cop" for an escort to on campus locations across the tracks, on the surface is reasonable. In fact we still do escorts in cruisers all over campus and beyond, but we have to limit them so as not to revert back to duplicating Safe Ride.

As to lighting, Massachusetts Avenue is one of the better lit perimeter areas; it is not perfect, but much of it is city property.

Lighting around Edgerton House was upgraded a year or so ago -- we will check and see if the Albany Street side is sufficient or still a problem.

I am not unsympathetic to your concerns, but the solutions are not quite as simple as one might think. The Safe Walk leadership will be closely tracking requests for Safe Walk. The service has only been in existence for two nights, and no understanding of the demands on the system can be drawn for at least a month. I will be meeting with its student leaders then.

Nobody feels more strongly about campus safety and security than I do, but we have to work together in a constructive fashion.

Anne P. Glavin

Campus Police Chief