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Community policing for the Northwest graduate community

It is no surprise that the lives of many on-campus graduate students revolve around graduate residences. This is the case for residents of the northwest dormitories, Ashdown, Edgerton, Sidney Pacific, and The Warehouse, which, along with nine research buildings in Albany Street, lie relatively far from the main section of campus. The physical separation of this community makes maintaining a positive atmosphere in and around the northwest dorms particularly vital. A central part of that atmosphere is safety — both real and perceived.

With student safety in mind, MIT has instituted a new model for campus policing, the community policing position: a dedicated officer assigned to patrol and serve as a resource to graduate community in the northwest campus.

It’s especially fitting that this community policing position arose from broad community collaboration. Growing out of a unique vision for improving campus policing, Chief John Difava and Deputy Chief Jay Perault immediately reached out to student and administrative leadership in search of wide-spread input and support. Student representatives from the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and student leadership from the northwest dorms helped drive and direct the discussion of this new position from the very beginning. Furthermore, the graduate housemasters, the Dean for Student Life, and staff in the DSL Housing office have been strong advocates, offering valuable support. Through this model example of careful early-stage community engagement, MIT is moving to improve safety in the northwest and setting a new bar for the Institute in student communication and engagement. We applaud these efforts and are excited by the results.

The main goal of community policing is to develop partnerships between law enforcement and the community to systematically examine problems and develop effective responses. The position aims to use creative problem solving to proactively and preemptively address conditions of public safety. In the northwest graduate community, we are hoping that this philosophy translates to a reduction of crime, an increased perception of safety, and increased positive interaction between students and the MIT police force.

We are particularly confident that these goals will come to fruition with the help of our outstanding new community policing officer, Lily Almeyda. Though she has been an MIT Police Officer for a little less than a year, we are confident that she understands the lives of graduate students in Boston as she graduated from Northeastern University with a Masters in Leadership in 2008, and has served in university police departments in the Boston area since. Because it is important that Officer Almeyda feels at home in the northwest campus and has a location to meet with students, DSL and MIT Housing have worked alongside the northwest housing leadership to secure an office for her in Sidney Pacific.

Officer Almeyda will use her office for weekly ‘office hours’ a time where students should feel free to drop in and say hi; such interactions are not only an opportunity to learn more about law enforcement and safety issues on campus, but to forge friendly connections to a new community member whose goal is to support the whole northwest community. Officer Almeyda will patrol the outdoor areas of the northwest campus in the evenings (e.g. 6 p.m.-2 a.m.), around the time where grad students are generally returning home from lab. In addition, she is happy to participate in any social events in the northwest residences.

To the students: find an excuse to talk to Lily, whether it is a casual ‘hello,’ a discussion of a safety concern you’ve had, or simply to be social. Consider Officer Almeyda not only as a community police officer, but also as a friendly resource and a person to depend on. We are incredibly lucky to be the seat of this bold new experiment by MIT Police and we should do our best to welcome Lily into our community.

Lastly we would like to thank all the housemasters and MIT staff who reached out and collaborated with students to make this incredible joint effort happen. In particular, Chief John DiFava for his inspiring and elevating vision for this position; Deputy Chief Jay Perault and Captain Al Pierce for valuable discussions and fantastic support; Sgt. Cheryl Vossmer for outstanding and continued outreach to all students. It is clear from this collaboration that Institute and student leaders can forge effective community improvement when they work as one.

On behalf of the entire graduate student body, we would like to thank the aforementioned officers for what we hope will be the first of many community policing positions at MIT, and welcome, Officer Almeyda, to the northwest family.

Randi Cabezas GSC Housing
& Community Affairs Chair,
gsc-hca@mit.edu

Nathaniel Schafheimer, GSC Housing and Community Affairs Chair,
gsc-hca@mit.edu

Evelina Polyzoeva, Operations Officer at Ashdown House, epolyzoe@mit.edu

Jennifer Jarvis, Chair of the Halls at Sidney Pacific jjarvis@mit.edu

Brian Spatocco, GSC President,
gsc-president@mit.edu

Aalap Dighe, GSC Vice President,
gsc-vp@mit.edu