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Metal detectors may not prove a cure-all to crime at MIT parties

By Shang-Lin Chuang

A string of violent incidents at MIT parties over the past few years has left crime high on the minds of students, Campus Police, and administrators. The latest development in the search for an answer came last August, when campus parties started to look like airport security with the introduction of metal detectors.

The CPs hope that the detectors - required for certain large on-campus events - will prevent a repeat of tragedies like the murder of a Northeastern University student at a Student Center party in 1987, a shooting in 1989, two Student Center stabbings in 1991, and a stabbing at Delta Kappa Epsilon in 1992, said Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin.

But both students and the police admit the detectors cannot prove a cure-all for violent crime on their own. The 1989 shooting happened not at a party but after one in a parking lot. And when a NU student was shot in the leg on the steps outside an Alpha Phi Alpha party at Walker Memorial two months ago, metal detectors had been in place at the doors.

"We did everything we could to preserve security," APA member Craig Robinson '97 said of that recent event. "The shooting was just beyond our control. The problems are mostly outside the parties. That's where we should focus on making our policies."

Glavin agrees that the main problem involves controlling the perimeter of large events - not the parties themselves.

Problems with several other parties during the fall have also prompted concerns about alcohol consumption by minors, crowd control problems, and the presence of non-college students at MIT events, according to Dean of Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski.

Only days after the shooting, the Campus Activities Complex and the CPs decided to cancel all large, late-night parties until at least early spring. While students are mindful of the problem, the response has still met with some criticism.

"I don't know if it was necessary to make some sort of drastic move to quiet this agitation," Robinson said. "It's really easy to say, Let's just have no more parties.' The administration should take a second look at the positive aspects of events," like community fundraising, he said.

The vague terms "large" and "late-night" were never explicitly spelled out, but parties are instead evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the CPs, RCA, and the office of Residence and Campus activities. In general, fraternity, sorority, and independent living group parties will probably not be affected, Jablonski said.

The only group to have had a party canceled so far - Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders and Friends at MIT - feels that the cancelation is unfair and may have some detrimental effects on GAMIT, said Sarah L. Veatch '98, an organizer of the event.

The unpleasant fact remains that MIT has on average seen one major party-related crime every two years for the past decade, and several minor incidents besides. Only time will tell whether the use of metal detectors and the new parties policy will help curb that trend in 1996.