The Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) advisories landed like a one-two punch rattling every member of the Harvard community. Two incidents of rape committed by two different perpetrators in one week, just days before HBS students would arrive on campus for the new school year.
Neither incident, the first on August 10th and the second on August 14th, involved a member of the HBS or broader Harvard community, nor did either incident occur on HBS grounds. The first attack took place in Harvard Yard, and the second in the area of Oxford and Kirkland Streets in Cambridge. No arrests have been made.
The incidents were a stunning reminder that for all the peace and quiet of the community here, HBS is nevertheless situated on an open campus in an urban environment where personal safety cannot be taken for granted.
In response to the incidents in August, HBS Security added one officer to its regular 28-member team, according to Bob Breslow, Director of Administrative Services for HBS Operations.
“The action we took immediately was to add staff to increase visibility and presence on campus for observation, and to provide service for the community,” he said.
Beyond their presence, HBS security provides walking escorts to students traveling as far away as the Cambridge T Station. Breslow said that the weekend of August 18-19 was the busiest weekend for escorts that HBS Security has had.
The broader crime statistics available to Harvard-affiliated students show that within the Cambridge campus area, which includes HBS, major crime statistics fell in 2011 after an upswing in 2010.
Last year there were zero murders/manslaughters, 13 total reports of rape (formal and confidential), 13 forcible fondling reports, 19 robberies, 36 aggravated assaults, 24 burglaries, and 13 motor vehicle thefts.
In 2010, there were zero murders/manslaughters, 22 rapes, 10 reports of forcible fondling, four non-forcible sex offenses, 39 robberies, 22 aggravated assaults, 25 burglaries, and 26 motor vehicle thefts.
Though violent crime does exist within the Harvard environment, it is an extremely infrequent occurrence at HBS, according to Breslow and John O’Connor, Manager of Physical Assets for HBS Operations.
“We have a pretty safe environment on campus here,” Breslow said. “The most prevalent crime here is property crime and it’s usually when people leave things behind or unattended for a period of time – such as bikes or laptops.”
“Crime against people is a very small number of responses that happen for HBS security and HUPD,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said that in a given year, HBS Security is involved in approximately 40,000 “transactions,” that is, incidents involving Security involvement. These transactions include patrols on campus, escort services, and more mundane affairs like responding when a student is locked out of their dorm room.
HBS Security team plans to add four permanent members to its staff this year, and recently moved into a renovated and expanded command center in Aldrich Hall. Breslow praised the University for giving Security the tools it needs to monitor campus.
“Whether it’s through our new station, our presence, or our surveillance cameras, emergency phones, pull stations, and blue lights, we’ve invested in the infrastructure here to help us monitor campus activity, deploy resources, and serve the community better,” Breslow said.
In spite of that investment, Breslow stressed that personal responsibility for one’s safety and student vigilance are critical for maintaining a safe environment.
“We wish safety was something no one had to pay attention to, but you do have to pay attention,” he said. “There are times that you’re travelling or out socializing that you really need to make yourself aware. I think it’s great advice that whenever you’re about to travel, that you just take a minute to think about what’s the safest way for me to do this?
“All of the monitoring systems that we have are great, but the thing that contributes most to safety is having students be aware of their surroundings and vigilant.”
To that end, Breslow urged students to implement common sense safety measures such as traveling in groups versus traveling alone and taking off your headphones when walking alone.
Beyond these simple techniques, Breslow also urged interested students to enroll in the upcoming Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) program at Shad Hall.
“RAD is a great program for people to take advantage of who want to learn about how to defend themselves if they find themselves in a position where they need to,” Breslow said. “It’s free of charge, and it’s intense.
“It’s meant to be intense. When you’re faced with that situation, it’s intense and you need training that mimics that intensity, if you don’t, you’re less likely to defend yourself well.”
RAD programs, which are only available to women, will be offered beginning this Thursday at 5:30-9:30pm. Students can sign up at myHBS. Though some students might balk at the 4-hour time commitment, Breslow insisted that the time was a worthwhile investment.
“You’ve got to invest the time to be better at anything, and defending yourself is one of those things,” he said. “It’s a great program and I encourage everyone to take it.”