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Crime Bulletin Is a Notable Service

One month ago in this space, we faulted the Campus Police for failing to promptly and adequately communicate relevant information about crimes and safety to the MIT community. People need specific information rather than vague alerts or safety tips to protect themselves. Such specific information, we said, is necessary to protect members of the community from the otherwise nebulous perceptions of campus crime.

To help solve this problem, the Campus Police has taken a noteworthy step with the creation late last month of an electronic mailing list designed to keep members of the MIT community informed about crime on campus. The new list is an improvement and an important first step; however, it can only be one component of a larger community awareness system.

The most obvious drawback to using the electronic mailing system to disseminate crime and safety information is the very nature of how people can use it: They must choose to add themselves to the list. While students, faculty, and staff who try to be aware of campus safety issues will likely add themselves to the list, those who are not aware of such issues may not know about the list or choose not to add themselves. Yet, these are the very students that need to be made aware.

And while MIT students may pride themselves on their technical prowess, not all students read or check their e-mail regularly, and not all the people who should be notified of crime concerns have e-mail access. Therefore, while electronic mail can certainly be an integral component of a communication system, the Campus Police should not rely on the mailing list as the remedy to all of their communications problems.

How should the Campus Police better communicate about safety issues? Postering in living groups is unlikely to reach independent living groups or students living in apartments, let alone faculty and staff. Another possibility, interdepartmental mail, is sometimes slow and is notoriously inefficient for contacting ILG residents.

Despite this drawback, The electronic bulletins certainly represent an opportunity for improving communication with ILGs. The Campus Police should also explore other methods, perhaps coordinated through the regular and frequent activities of the Interfraternity Council, to improve the likelihood that important crime information will reach ILG residents.

Electronic mail, postering, and interdepartmental mail all lack person-to-person communication. To remedy this and supplement the e-mail bulletin, the Campus Police should seriously consider notifying graduate resident tutors about campus crime issues, possibly through the e-mail bulletins. Graduate resident tutors in the undergraduate dormitories have close connections to the 30 to 40 students they each advise. The tutors can easily communicate important crime and safety bulletins as part of their daily contact with students. They are also more likely to regularly read their e-mail than some students and house masters, although house masters, house managers, and house fellows also have their own network of student contacts.

The occasional failure to be aware of our surroundings is an unfortunate consequence of our busy lives as MIT students, faculty, and staff. The open and urban nature of our campus demand that we recognize the limits of the Campus and Cambridge Police to absolutely protect us from crime. The electronic bulletin is a good first step to increasing awareness and thus safety, but further methods need to be implemented before the job is complete.