On the Campus...
the safest of the Ivies, yet theft abounds
by Andrew Shtulman '01
Index published its 1999 campus safety report, it came as no surprise
that Princeton was ranked the safest school in the Ivy League. Members
of the university community saw the report as statistical confirmation
of what they already knew intuitively. Unlike the University of
Pennsylvania, Columbia, or Yale (ranked the first, second, and third
most dangerous Ivy League schools respectively), Princeton is ideally
located in an upscale, non-urban environment - a setting that defies
the very thought of criminal activity. Indeed, few students think
twice about walking home in the middle of the night or leaving their
Given that, I want to
report that I've had over $3,000 worth of belongings stolen since
I've been at Princeton.
During my freshman year
I had a coat stolen from the dining hall. During my junior year
I had the cash stolen out of my wallet.
And now, a few weeks
before the start of my senior year, I had a laptop stolen right
off my desk. Is it just me? Do I have exceptionally bad luck?
It appears not. After
learning of my loss, many Princeton friends consoled me with stories
of their own losses, some totaling to as much as $6,000. Interested
to learn the actual frequency of campus theft, not to mention the
success rate for recovery of stolen goods, I logged on to Public
There, I discovered a
police blotter detailing the most recent incidents of criminal activity:
"theft of a bicycle," "theft of a cellular phone,"
"theft of pots and pans," "theft of three printers,"
"theft of a sawzall" (whatever that might be), and more
- all within the space of a week!
A recent survey conducted
by the Daily Princetonian found that 62% of students feel
"very safe" at the university. Yet although I agree that
crime is probably the last concern on most Princetonians' minds
(Princeton students tend to use the campus blue-light phones to
call friends, not the proctors, and they ride the safety shuttle
to spare the effort of walking), I suspect those who took that survey
interpreted "safe" as meaning "safe from violent
crime," not "safe from crime in general," for 1 out
of every 4 students who took the survey reported having been the
victim of theft, and the average loss per victim was rather substantial:
If indeed a quarter of
the student body has been affected by theft, the incidence of larceny
should be around 1,150 thefts per year. Public Safety, however,
has only 369 accounts of larceny on record for 1999. Why is there
such a discrepancy? Well for starters, Public Safety does not include
crimes committed at the eating clubs in their statistics, and Prospect
Avenue is perhaps the most frequent site of theft and vandalism.
(Because my laptop was stolen from a room in Colonial Club, Public
Safety would not take down the crime; I was told I needed to talk
to the Princeton Borough police instead.) Secondly, many students
do not report thefts. What's the point? As any Public Safety officer
will tell you, once a jacket or bike has been removed from campus,
it's pretty much gone for good.
So it turns out the
university is not as invulnerable to crime as many people would
like believe. Though the threat of being physically harmed on the
Princeton campus is practically nonexistent, the threat of being
financially harmed is actually quite high, and for good reason:
Princeton is an ideal hunting ground for would-be felons. Where
else can you find such an abundance of unlocked rooms, unguarded
coats, and unattended bikes?
For my own part, I swear
never again to leave my room unlocked, my coat unguarded, or my
bike (if I had one) unattended. Even though I think I've experienced
more than my share of bad luck, who knows what else might be stolen
if I'm not careful. There's always my bed.