How to keep crime out of campus cloisters

Jerry Doyle, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer, prowls the narrow passageways between buildings in his cruiser. Lights are blazing in the MIT campus buildings late on a frosty night. The academic facilities are open 24 hours a day because students and staff want to come and go as they please.

''The MIT-type scientist doesn't keep normal hours,'' Officer Doyle says.

Nor do most students on American campuses. ''People move a lot more freely on campus than in a city - kids walk on campus at all hours of the night,'' says Marvin Moore of the Stanford University Police Department.

This casual coming and going is one of the expected freedoms of college life. But recently, more and more of the outside world has been climbing the walls of academia's ivory towers. Rape, theft, and even murder have increased on once-quiet American campuses over the past few years. Campus security forces have had to be upgraded into sophisticated law-enforcement teams. Students have had to be convinced that they need to take the same precautions on campus that they would elsewhere.

The lush, quiet Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif., almost feels sheltered, set apart from the rest of the world, when one walks onto it. It's easy to see why the campus here was stunned by the murder last fall of a student who was cleaning a professor's home.

But despite this rise in serious and ''nuisance'' crimes (library book theft, for example), campus police officers across the country still insist that there is no full-blown crime wave on American campuses.

''The campus is far safer, and the numbers of crimes committed are far lower in every area - except larceny,'' says James McGovern, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Association (IACLEA).

Quoting the Federal Bureau of Investigation's 1979 Uniform Crime Reports, Mr. McGovern compared the national murder rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people with the campus murder rate of 0.02 per 100,000 people; rape on campus of 8.9 per 100,000 population with the overall national figure of 36 per 100,000; and the national robbery rate of 243 per 100,000 people with the campus robbery rate of 19.3 per 100,000 people. But larceny, or theft, figures show the national rate of 3,156 per 100,000 people somewhat lower than the campus rate of 3,840 per 100,000.

College administrators have been educated about their campuses' vulnerability to crime, says IACLEA president Jerry Hudson. Convincing students is another matter.

''One of the most difficult points to get across to students is that we're not isolated,'' says Babson College police chief Robert Drapeau. Babson, a business school in the wealthy Boston suburb of Wellesley, was shaken by three rapes on campus in September. ''We're on the edge of a big metropolitan area, and we're not immune (to urban problems).''

''Because of the open educational atmosphere, colleges open themselves up to the public at all hours,'' says Chief Drapeau. ''The question of campus access is becoming more important. Colleges are sensitive to public relations and image , but they'll have to realize that 100 percent free access to the campus 24 hours a day is maybe not the best thing.''

''Many students come from homes or neighborhoods where it's not so crucial to lock the door,'' says Paul Moore, vice-president of the University of Santa Clara, a private liberal arts college in the San Francisco Bay area. ''They bring those same expectations to a different environment.''

''Few colleges anymore are in a historic, pastoral setting,'' Mr. Moore says. ''Many are in urban settings and they become more complex as they get connections with the business world. That and the urban setting changes things - they have to realize they're in the world.

''But just locking the gates doesn't deal effectively with the problem, because community relationships are more important than gates. If you lock yourself away, that might limit the flow of ideas.''

Derek Passarelli, a sophomore at Stanford, directs the student-run escort service called SURE (Stanford United for Rape Elimination). He says that while there is a danger that the campus could turn inward and shut off the flow of people and ideas, programs such as SURE help prevent that possibility by offering a practical daily solution to part of the crime problem.

SURE provides either one male or two female escorts to accompany students to their destination at night - on foot, by bicycle, or in a newly purchased golf cart that zips regularly between the two main libraries on campus.

The increase of attacks on women at colleges and universities has resulted in rape crisis centers, escort services such as SURE, and 24-hour dormitory security guards becoming a standard part of campus life.

Other crime prevention measures include:

* At the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, mobile closed-circuit TVs are set up in problem areas, such as a parking deck and a 24-hour banking machine. And, says the IACLEA's Mr. Hudson, who is security director there, ''We believe a high police profile is one of the best crime deterrents.'' So campus cops there wear police uniforms and drive marked cruisers.

* A number of campuses hire students to serve as supplemental or auxiliary police to scout out parking lots and deserted campus buildings. At South Carolina's Clemson University, for example, a student police force frees regular officers from routine parking ticket-writing.

* Operation Identification encourages people to engrave their valuables with their driver's license or social security number to discourage would-be thieves. The program, widespread in nonacademic communities as well, became quite popular on the Stanford campus after police caught a burglar with $2.5 million worth of stolen property from more than 300 burglaries.

* At the University of Maryland in College Park, a $1.7 million high-intensity lighting project is due to be completed in April 1984. The university also closes off eight of its 12 entrances at night. Student auxiliary police man the gates to check the identification and destination of entering cars.

The college also provides a shuttle bus service from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Then it becomes a call-a-ride service, a free door-to-door taxi service for students. Maryland dorms have a two-barrier system: a first set of locks on the outside door, and a second set on the elevators and stairs. The university is also removing bushes and shrubs from possible problem areas.

As budgets shrivel, campus police are coming up with ways to involve students in the fight against campus crime. One approach is the PAW (People Are Watching) program at Clemson University. Keyed to the school's tiger mascot, the aim of the PAW program is to make students a sort of supplemental police.

''With tight financial resources, we've got to rely more on the people that we're serving to help us,'' says Jack Ferguson, Clemson's director of public safety.

At the University of Santa Clara, there is only an unarmed safety force. But Mr. Moore, the vice-president, says the school has set out to solve its vandalism problem by spending some $450,000 to repair vandalized dormitories. Since then, he says, there has been a 39 percent drop in repair costs. The idea is to offer a well-maintained residence that students will want to take care of ''like they take care of their own homes,'' Moore said.

During the wave of unrest on college campuses during the 1960s and early 1970 s, colleges found they could not meet the problems alone, according to James McGovern. But ''bringing in outside officers didn't help much - it only brought confrontation. The colleges and universities realized they needed their own in-house law enforcement.'' Many campus police now train alongside their metropolitan counterparts at police academies, and wear uniforms and guns.

During the 1970s, many students stopped viewing campus police as the enemy and started seeing them as allies in their push to shore up security. That quest is as important to college administrators as it is to students. A college's image is important in recruiting students, and part of that image is safety on campus. With that in mind, administrators are taking campus security a lot more seriously.

But as university budgets tighten, sadly security is often the first item to be cut.

''When economic times get tough, there is a greater turn toward crime, but (crime control and prevention) is a frequent first place to look to trim a budget,'' says Hudson.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.