Armed Robbery between Mertz and Alice Paul

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Yesterday, an armed robbery occurred on Swarthmore’s campus. The Gazette is still investigating the incident, but according a police bulletin, the incident occurred just before midnight on Tuesday. The victim, a Villanova student, was robbed at gunpoint while in the middle of the field between Mertz and Magill Walk. According to Public Safety, the victim was walking to his car, which was parked by Bond.

The assailants considered shooting the victim. According to the police, “a second suspect kept asking, “Should we shoot him?””

A Swarthmore student witnessed the assault, and described the suspects as “two black males wearing dark hoodies, one was tall and thin and the other was stockier.”

Director of Public Safety, Owen Redgrave is not at Swarthmore today. Alisa Giardinelli in the Swarthmore Communications, spoke to Gazette News Editor Neena Cherayil.

Was victim a local taking classes or working here? As I understand now, he is a student at Villanova?
“I was unaware he was a Villanova student, but I do know he lives in Philadelphia and was on campus doing schoolwork in the library. [McCabe]”

Where exactly did attack occur? Any new information on perpetrators?
AG: “It happened on the grass, on the large field between Alice Paul and Mertz. The victim was on his way to his car in the Bond parking lot. It’s unclear what the attackers looked like. The victim never really got a good look of them before they fled.”

And the weapon…?
AG: “The weapon used was confirmed a handgun. “

There was a witness to the incident, a student?
AG: “Yes, the witness was a Swarthmore student.”

Have there been similar attacks in the area, some sort of pattern?
AG: “Not that I’m aware of. “

What is Public Safety doing now?
AG: “An active investigation has been opened and the College is cooperating fully with the Swarthmore Police.”

The bulletin released by Swarthmore College was:

At 11:55 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, 2009, a male visitor to campus was robbed at gunpoint. The victim had just left McCabe Library and was walking to his car that was parked in Bond Lot. As he walked between Alice Paul and Mertz Residence Halls, he was approached by two males who produced a gun and demanded his wallet. The victim’s back pack, wallet, and cell phone were taken.

The victim immediately reported the incident to Public Safety who started a search with the assistance of Swarthmore Police Department.

Actors’ description: two black males. No further description was available.

Anyone with information concerning this incident should contact the Department of Public Safety at x8281 or Swarthmore Police Department at 610 543-0123.


  1. This all sounds very far-fetched. What? Two armed robbers are going to lie in wait behind Mertz for a student to rob at gunpoint ($3 and an iPod?) in broad daylight? Of all the places in greater Philadelphia to plan a random armed robbery, they decided Bond Parking lot was the best? This requires a willful suspension of disbelief. Not to mention the odds of a Villanova student driving to Swarthmore to use the library before noon. Most Swarthmore students don't even make to the library before noon.

    More plausible scenario? Alleged victim makes marijuana delivery to customer on campus. "Friends" of alleged victim follow him to campus and relieve him of the proceeds of said transaction on the way back to the car.

    Where's Paul Harvey when we need the rest of the story on this one?

  2. My bad. I see this alleged robbery took place at midnight, not noon. Still feel the same way. What are the odds of an alleged Villanova student being randomly mugged at gunpoint at that location?

  3. Thanks for the input, a parent, but I'm uncomfortable with your willingness to assume that, if dangerous people find their way to our campus, a student at the college must be responsible–through assumed illegal behavior–for their presence. Recent experience has contradicted that generalization: a student was nearly abducted last year by a stranger, and there have been, to my knowledge, a few different instances of unwelcome visitors (this academic year alone) to our campus who would seek to do students harm.

    Instead of attempting to blame this incident on the students (which, thankfully, no institutional outlet has decided yet to do), we ought to understand that, while Swarthmore feels like an isolated place, it isn't that far from the realities of real people in the real world who might victimize us and our community. To that end, we ought to focus on making our campus a safer and more secure place for students. That means, to my mind, improved lighting and/or/whynotboth a blue light system on campus.

  4. I agree with musclebound's last suggestion on improved lighting and a blue light system on campus. I think the need for such a system, or a similar one that is adapted to the unique needs and concerns of our campus, far outweighs the objections some have about the introduction of such a system.
    Also, I have a problem with the fact that students were not officially informed until the morning after. I think a better system should be in place to let students know right away — students should know if an incident occurred, especially if they originally intended to walk back home alone.
    I would suggest an immediate campus-wide email, but not everyone has access to their email at all times. The college does have our cell phone numbers for the emergency texting system, and I would like to know what those in charge think of utilizing such a system when an incident like this occurs.
    Also, what do students think of this?
    Rachel Bell

  5. can't imagine a swat student inviting an off campus dealer/thug here.

    more plausible scenario: villanova student arranges to meet up in relatively safe location without police that is easy for all parties to access (i.e. here). drug deal goes wrong, thugs rob him, he cooks up a story about why the hell he would have been here at midnight ("I was in the library!") that nevertheless doesn't explain why he would have been near alice paul (not exactly on the way from mccabe to ben west parking).

    still scary and i can't believe we have a train station and such an open campus and such paltry safety resources.

  6. I'm not "blaming" any student. I'm just saying that the facts of this story, as presented, do not add up. There is a well-lit paved walkway on a very direct route from the library to the Bond parking lot. Why was this alleged victim walking down Macgill walkway and across the Mertz swamp?

    If I recall, the last "armed" robbery a few years back was some off campus guys going to Worth to deliver some weed and robbing the student of his money instead. That's what this incident smells like to me.

    The "abduction" last year was pretty obviously an attempted pickup/proposition scenario. I would hardly use that as support for the notion of violent crime.

    Before going whole-hog on the blue-light campsign, check with a few colleges on how much then spend chasing down false-alarms from every drunk student paasing a call-box and consider whether there is any real value or if its just a feel-good thing. Given the budget pressures, the College should only be considering expenditures with an unassailable cost/benefit track record.

    As for sending an allpoints bulletin at three in the morning, I don't know. That seems a bit extreme. It is quite possible that Campus Security doesn't believe the story it's being given by the alleged victim.

  7. Yes. That exact scenario crossed my mind as well. A meeing for a transaction between one party arriving on the train and another by car. Park in Ben West, walk over to the tunnel, meet arriving train passengers. Transaction goes bad. I think it's quite possible that this had nothing to do with Swarthmore at all.

    BTW, for those clamoring for more police presence on campus, remember those sentiments the next time the local constables park a squad car outside a Paces party. I've read about ten years of Phoenix editorials complaining about a heightend police presence on campus. Can't have it both ways!

  8. It's an absolute shame that Swarthmore does not have a blue light system in place. Almost all of our rival schools have a system to ensure their safety: Williams, Amherst, the Ivies. Students already have to put up with sub-par housing and food. Why is the administration letting students live in an unsafe environment as well?

    As a tour guide, I'm constantly asked by parents why we do not have a blue light system. It's very difficult to say that we do not need one when orange flyers have been put on the doors to every major building on campus.

    I hope specs at RTT question the administration on the safety on our school. Perhaps the Administration will listen to students who haven't yet chosen this school.

  9. What exactly is a blue light supposed to do in a case like this? Do you really think a mugger is going to just wait while the victim goes to call security? Wouldn't it be quicker to just hit the pre-programmed button on your cell phone?

    You are aware that Swarthmore has reviewed studies at other colleges that show zero real calls on their "blue lights" and hundreds of prank calls per year? Does that sound like a cost effective measure to you? In an era when every college student has a cell phone (often held to the ear while walking), I can't imagine a bigger waste of money than investing in a last-century landline based security phone system. It would be cheaper to buy every student a cell phone with security's number programmmed into it.

    You do have security on a one-button dial, right?

  10. Oh, and if as you say rival schools have a system to "ensure safety", how was it that an Amherst student was recently stabbed at an all-campus party in the dining hall?

    As far as safety goes, I'm trying to remember the last Swarthmore student injured in crime on campus (that didn't involve a drunk student throwing a table over the balcony railing). I think there were minor injuries in a late night robbery in the train tunnel about eight to ten years ago. I think that was the last injury. Anybody else know of a more recent injury?

  11. I realize this could be denial, but I tend to agree with "a parent" that something sounds fishy with the details of the incident. I can understand a Nova student being here, and possibly even utilizing the library until midnight, but the location? Does anyone notice that going from the library, to Magill, then across the big field, and finally to the parking lot behind AP is THE most circuitous route possible to that lot?

    I'm willing to accept that it was just a confused Nova student, but I think someone should be talking with him to confirm the story. This isn't the politically correct thing to say, but maybe someone should do some digging in his background…if he looks the type of student who would need an alibi (past criminal record) it might be telling.

    And, again, though I know the name won't be released, who was the witness to the event? A swat student or also someone from off-campus?

  12. BTW, you can do a search over at the Phoenix archives for the word "assault" and get a complete account of all violent crimes on the Swarthmore campus for about the last decade.

    The last three "violent crimes" have been students charged with aggravated assault, against police officers, all drunk and resisting resisting arrest.

    There was the table assault in Sharples.

    There was the bizarre incident in Worth in 2004 where three "armed black males" entered a room in Worth and demanded to know "where are the drugs". This one was never sorted out, but the Deans commnented in the Phoenix that students who get involved in drugs run the risk of interacting with dangerous people. In other words, this was probably not a random situation.

    There was the high school kid who got beaten to a pulp on the railroad tracks after attending a party at one of the frat houses. I believe at the time the defense was, "we didn't beat anyone up, but if we did, he deserved it…" The College paid a signficant sum of money to settle a lawsuit by the victim.

    Going back a bit further, there was the 2003 incident where a Swarthmore student punched a pizza delivery guy in the face in a dispute over $3.50 in change.

    And, finally, you have to go back to 2001 for the last "real" assault on campus — two students were robbed late at night at the underground rail tunnel. This was a real assault, robbing at gunpoint for wallets, which the assailants took and then fled.

    It appears to me, that if Swarthmore wants to cut down on "violent crime", installing breathalyzers would probably be a better investment than blue lights.

  13. I'm down with the idea of improved lighting in certain spots, but like our parent, I'm pretty sure blue lights do very little to prevent crime, and are extremely costly on top of that.

  14. Dear A Parent: Your wild speculation about the circumstances of a crime about which you know practically nothing (no more than any of us) should not distract other readers of Tha Daily Gazette from understanding the proper way to respond to this disturbing news. Your negativity, cynicism, and willingness to blame a student is unproductive, and, as someone who doesn't inhabit the campus everyday, audacious. Moreover, I can only imagine that what you know about buying drugs at Swarthmore couldn't fill a thimble, even if you combined it with the details you recall of past criminal activity here. The attempted abduction incident last year was just that: an attempted abduction. It wasn't a propositioning or pick-up gone wrong, and the student in that incident was NOT IN ANY WAY TO BLAME. I'm convinced that the circumstances of this robbery were similarly simple: it was an armed robbery perpetrated by someone outside the community who happened to be on campus, nothing more complicated.

    Though our campus feels like an isolated place, it's an open and beautiful space where, for the most part, surveillance and incursion of "the real world" is relatively low. That atmosphere, combined with the fact that we are college students means that people from outside our small community have various reasons, for good and ill, of visiting the campus. If we want to keep our space ours, and safe for all our students, we have to make sure that we, as a whole, take responsibility for ourselves and our own safety. That's why I think that a blue light system as well as increased lighting would be a wise investment: they would allow students to look out for ourselves and other students, and help Public Safety look out for us. I've always admired the fact that Public Safety, at Swarthmore, actually acts in the interest of students and their safety. It's not out to condemn, convict, or punish students for their decisions.

    I think that, in cases of student security, if a Blue Light system leads to false alarms, it's better to be safe than sorry. There's no reason why public safety shouldn't respond to any calls it gets–false alarms or not. I'd rather public safety responded to 100 false alarms a day, if responding to every call meant they prevented just one assault on a student.

  15. Is anyone hearing this argument?
    Is "not cost effective" really a consideration, or a cause for hesitancy to install a safer security system? NO.

    I, personally am not willing to further risk the safety of friends/faculty/staff, or my OWN life. Whether this story sounds suspicious (which i'll grant you, it does, especially with the threat to shoot. it very well could have been a drug deal and the 2 guys didnt want to risk any trouble for themselves) or not is insignificant. Suppose it was a drug deal. It happens, and it sure happens here, undoubtedly. But what about innocent bystanders, like this witness? What was he/she supposed to do? Call the police/public safety? Yell at these punks to scare them away? Mind his/her own business?
    My point is that someone's life was put at risk, and not just the victim's, but OTHERS AROUND AND ON THIS CAMPUS. We do NOT live in an isolated bubble, separated from the rest of the world. And currently the U.S. in an economic crisis, the effects to which we are not invincible.

    But not raising the level of security (permanently) would mean taking a risk thats more costly than our community can or should have to afford.

    I've never felt 'safe' on this campus. It's too damn dark and isolated at night and when i get back to my dorm from the science center so late at night, I don't feel safe walking back to my dorm. …Sure, I could call public safety for an escort, but what about for witnesses of attacks, like this one?
    And what about the rest of the campus that had not a CLUE about this whole mess until this morning, left in the dark without a word of precaution or alert from the College.
    This is unacceptable.

    Thankfully, no one was severely hurt. Let this incident be a lesson to all of us, that we are not separate from the rest of the world, nor are we to be ignorant of what's going on around us. We have a right to know, and a right to safety in a place where so many of us call "home," for several months a year.

  16. "Chief of Borough Police Brian Craig said that a similar event, with suspects that fit the same description, occurred 30 minutes earlier in Springfield."

  17. In response to comment 14:

    how is "the high school kid who got beaten to a pulp on the railroad tracks…" NOT considered a "real" assault??

  18. Re: #17

    Since you don't feel safe on Swarthmore's campus, I can't believe that you don't call security for an escort back to your dorm at night. That's a real security measure that the College provides, one that, unlike blue lights, virtually guarantees your safety at night. Yet, you don't use it? Do you have security's number programmed into your cellphone? Do you carry a whistle or other personal alarm? How about a keychain pepper spray? These are all inexpensive, proven items for people walking in places they don't feel safe.

    RE: #19

    Yes, of course the railroad track beating was a real assault. Actually, it was the most violent crime on Swarthmore's campus, maybe as far back as the student murdering his roommate in the 50s. My point was that, like the other aggravated assaults, this was obviously drunk Swarthmore college students doing the assaulting. Blue lights aren't going to stop that.

  19. The parent:

    You use the phoenix for your information? Do you know what a sorry joke of professional journalism the phoenix is? Just this year there was a student hassled at knife-point in her room in willets. 2 years ago, an off-campus person grabbed a woman in her parrish shower until she punched him and screamed, and a year or so ago, the security guard in the fieldhouse was knocked unconscious so that computers could be stolen.

    how do you know what was or wasn't a "real" incident? in terms of the "likelihood" of the incident, you are aware, considering how you know everything about swarthmore from reading the phoenix, that Chester, a community struggling against crime, is all of 10 minutes from swarthmore. It's not at all unlikely that two guys from Chester could come to our campus to rob folks.

    But what is most disturbing is how much you know about our campus. Are you an alum? Because if you're not, I would really appreciate it if you back off. I would not want to have a parent that knew the intricate geographical details and history of my college.

  20. First of, I saw four Villanova students in the library on Monday night – one boy three girls (I could tell they were Villanova students because two were wearing Villanova sweatshirts and I had never seen any of them before and at a place as small as Swat, yes, that is a good measure of whether or not someone goes here). So as far as that goes, "a parent," your sugg
    Secondly, that drug deals happen on campus (and that the incident in 2004 was a drug deal gone wrong) is true, yet in no way should this affect the way in which the incident is dealt with. The fact that two men with a gun could come on campus, threaten someone, and potentially try to settle a drug deal on campus, is a problem. Safety is a bit of an issue on campus, and I think that it was absolutely unacceptable that students were not informed directly after the incident. For example, that same night, at around 1:15 I walked from Mccabe to Mertz and then to move my car parked on College Avenue to Ben West. I do not think the (alleged) assailants were still around campus, but I *need to know* if something like this has occurred in certain areas so that I can arrange to walk with someone else or in general be more vigilant when walking in darker areas and off campus.

    And I agree with many comments already posted, "a parent," that your cynicism is not productive at all and that if you disagree with the blue light system for whatever reason belittling past assaults on campus is not the best way to do so.

    And just an added note, I do not believe that anyone is suggesting increased *police* presence on campus as they have time and again shown themselves to only be interested in arresting underage students regardless of the situation. I know of one student that was walking home at the end of the night, had to step onto a portion of "street" going through campus where there was a police car parked, was breathalyzed and cited. She was walking home completely capably to go to bed. While I am fully aware of the fact that the police have every right to breathalyze students I think that the way in which they decide to "serve and protect" the Swarthmore campus is far from the best it could be.

  21. Yes. I'm aware of where Chester is. Certainly, crime can occur at Swarthmore, just like everywhere else in the world.

    The reality, however, is that virtually no violent crime has occured at Swarthmore and what little does occur has been done by students, not some unknown bogeyman coming onto campus from "out there". Is it possible that this week's incident is a mugging by random dudes coming on to campus to rob another random dude who just happens to be on campus at the same time? Yes. That's possible. I'd think that is more likely if the story made any sense, the location weren't so muddled, and the whole thing so fantastic as to include two petty muggers repeatedly asking "should we shoot him" over a backpack heist… Come on.

    Why be skeptical? Head over to the BiCo News for this story about this week's "rape at gunpoint":

    I expect Swarthmore students to learn the street smarts to handle Philadelphia, New York, and Washington, compared to which the borough of Swarthmore, or even – goodness gracious – venturing up to the Pike – is a piece of cake. Virtually every student on campus has their own personal "blue light". Program security's number, carry it in your hand at night if you are concerned.

  22. Parent, don't you have anything better to do than argue with a pending assault charge? Please go on your merry way, I for one don't think you have anything interesting to add here. In fact, I would venture so far as to say your comments are disrespectful and ignorant.

    You don't know all of the facts of the case, so lay off, OK?

  23. Hey all,

    I wonder what you thought of Public Safety's patrols lat night around the middle of campus. I thought it was a good move and made me feel better walking around alone. How did it make you all feel?

  24. #16 "I've always admired the fact that Public Safety, at Swarthmore, actually acts in the interest of students and their safety. "

    I seriously question this. My personal experience with Public Safety has been alright, but there are definitely a couple of times when they did not respond to the interest of our safety.

  25. Maybe Swarthmore can get a good deal on used blue light phones from a university that just paid to remove their system over spring break!

    NMSU's 'blue-light' emergency phones to go dark

    LAS CRUCES, Mar 15, 2009 (Las Cruces Sun-News – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — The 24 emergency "blue light" phones that have dotted the campus of New Mexico State University for more than 20 years will be removed, starting this week when students are on spring break.

    An abundance of cell phones and a lack of use of the blue light phones — overwhelmingly used for prank calls or activated on accident — contributed to the decision, police say. The phones, which provide a direct connection to campus police when the "call" button is pressed, will begin to be removed March 23, a process expected to take several weeks.

    About 1,000 calls per year come in through the phones, requiring a minimum of five minutes' response time, said NMSU Police Chief Jaime Chavez, who said the removal of the phones will result in more patrol time.

    "The two legitimate calls that come to my mind — and I use the word "legitimate' loosely — was one where he called because his soccer ball was stuck in a tree," said Chavez, who has been with the department for 27 years. "And the second was a man who had been involved in a domestic. His wife had struck him and he ran to the phone." Chavez says there is no data to support the "blue light" phones remaining, especially in an era of prevalent cell phones and public lobby phones.

  26. This one is a hoot. The University of New Hampshire had to divert public safety officers from their regular patrols to step up police presence around the blue light locations to deter prank calls:

    The UNH Police Department recently heightened surveillance around areas that have blue light emergency phone systems in response to an excessive number of false alarms last school year.

    According to police, there were 236 emergency calls from the intercoms during the last academic year, all of which were false alarms. And just last weekend, there were four false alarms.

    "Those phones are in place for students' safety. [The UNH Police Department] takes [every call] absolutely seriously and responds to those false alarms," said UNH Deputy Police Chief Paul Dean. "The concern is that people are abusing something that is there to keep them safe."

    Along with being an annoyance, the false alarms threaten students' safety. When someone calls in an emergency from the blue lights, all available officers respond and treat the call as top priority. When a blue light is activated, officers leave their designated spots and hurry to the site. This causes a safety issue because it leaves other parts of the campus unmonitored.

  27. Swarthmore students: Please ignore this "parent" and don't feed the troll. Obviously, he or she does not understand the most important facet of a blue light system: they are designed so that, from any blue light on a campus, you can see at least one other blue light–meaning another well-lit area–just a short walking distance away.

    Now folks, every single day I give thanks to God Almighty that my parents have better things to do with their time than apply for a G.D. blue light system research grant and use it to start a flame war on an ONLINE COLLEGE NEWSPAPER because some snot nosed undergraduates don't kowtow to the omnipotence of their assumptions.

  28. I do think blue lights, in addition to other safety measures such as key cards, should be installed on campus. Although blue lights may not be particle in their original intention, as a way to call security, I do think that they can deter crime. They give the impression of security. There was a reason that the crime took place in the part of campus it did. That area is poorly lit, has little traffic and is on the outskirts of campus. I think something, like a blue light system, that signified its unity with the rest of the campus would be useful.
    I also think it would signal to students that although our campus is suburban it can still be dangerous. If the college demonstrates that it takes security seriously then maybe more students will as well, and take more personal steps toward their own security.

  29. '09,

    The crime occurred in the middle of campus, between Mertz and Magill Walk. There was a witnesses who saw the crime while walking down the main path that leads from McCabe to Alice Paul. That is not an out-of-the-way location. There are already lights surrounding the field (and the school isn't about to put lights in the middle of the field).

    And honestly—we should get blue lights just because they offer the illusion of safety, when all the evidence points to them being ineffective?

    I'm all for upping security. But why waste time and money?

  30. "a Parent" Well I respect your right to say your opinion. Your cynicism is unappreciated. You have not had mentioned a SINGLE way to improve the safety of our campus. Are you really naive enough to believe that incidents such as these will not happen again if we do nothing? Swarthmore has had numerous safety issues the past year. It is only a matter of time before an innocent student is hurt.

    Furthermore, the student who was attacked had his cell phone STOLEN. Unless the student could predict that he would be attacked at gunpoint, "a parent"'s entire cell phone idea is useless.

  31. First, none of us know what happened in the alleged assault Tuesday night. I will wait for the "rest of the story" before making judgements about that, just as those who assumed that a rape at gunpoint actually occured at Haverford this week are now re-thinking that.

    Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that a vistor to campus was mugged at random by total strangers. Do you really think they were going to let him get up and walk to a blue light phone whiile allegedly holding a gun to his head asking, "should we shoot him?" Any effective call for help, be it a blue light call, a cellphone call, or a good old fashioned scream, really needs to come from an aware student seeing the perps approach — in this case, allegedly across a wide open field.

    BTW, colleges are buying next generation security phone systems. Integrated software packages that work with panic buttons on GPS activated cell phones to display a location anywhere on campus.

    I did offer one suggestion to increase safety on cmapus: more police presence. This would not only serve as a visible deterrence to the virtually non-existent violent crime from outsiders, but would alleviate the underlying cause of violence by intoxicated students. I don't think that would be a popular response, but it would be an effective response.

    Remember, before the alleged incident this week, the last injury to a student inflicted by an outsider was the simple mugging eight years ago in which I believe a student suffered a bruise and a few scrapes. We are not talking about a very widespread problem.

  32. I am just wondering where are the safety features around campus that the student council asked us to vote for and promised so handsomely after the Willets incident last semester? Now with the gun-rob incident.. I am just wondering what are they going to do? More promises since the elections are coming up?

  33. Please see the bottom part of my page (President – Rachel Bell) towards the end of the comment thread, for a brief summary of what I know happened…

  34. I think that a parent sounds like interesteddad from College Confidential. He is generally very knowledgeable about Swarthmore.

    By the way, for what it's worth, I think that increased patrols by Swarthmore security on foot and by car would be a good idea on a permanent basis. Not sure that the blue lights are state of the art with cell phones, seems like the technology could be linked to cell phones instead. Awareness of surroundings, walking with others, and increased patrols on a permanent basis seem wise. As a woman, I never walked alone at night in college, even in safe areas.

  35. There is a lot we can do as individuals to make ourselves less inviting targets. For example, don't wear earbuds or headphones when walking alone on campus. I am sure we can come up with lots of others little things like this while working on the bigger things like improved lighting and security systems.

  36. @a parent: This has been said already, but it's worth saying again. You are…unbelievable.

    Now on to my point – sure, you can get rides from Public Safety. But students should not always need escorts to go anywhere on campus at night. That's just unreasonable.

  37. Students don't need escorts late at night because we have almost no violent street crime, and when we do it is usually a fluke. If someone is afraid to walk alone across campus at midnight, he or she has a skewed perception of safety here, or a skewed perception of safety in general. Most Americans highly overestimate the risk of being a crime victim, so it is understandable that people might feel this way, especially T.V. news/crime show watchers. Some people might feel unsafe on campus because they have lived in places that actually WERE unsafe. This shouldn't mean that the college should be obligated to throw money at irrational fears by trying every stupid crime solution other campuses use no matter what the costs and benefits.

    Fear-mongering doesn't help these fearful people, it hurts them. The college should be making it clear that Swarthmore is a safe place (which it definitely is in the scheme of things), not acting like we are some gated community that must be constantly on guard against the terrifying outside world. That goes for our whole country too–remember the original justifications for the Iraq war?

    Chill out, safety nuts, and go worry about something more important. Everyone, including you, will be better off for it.

    If you want to worry about crime at Swarthmore, worry about the prevalence of sexual assaults that generally happen outside the whole "street crime" system. Like most Americans you probably weren't even thinking of that kind of violence, because crime to you is probably always a poor or minority man committing a random assault on the street. Turn off the T.V. and wake up.

  38. @ah This is why I rarely participate in these discussions. I hate getting baited by trolls.

    You are making incredible, unfounded assumptions. Nothing I say here will make you think otherwise, but here it is – I am very aware of sexual assault on campus for reasons that are none of your business. Suffice it to say that you overreacted and really need to think before you type. I merely addressed others' comments about rides from Public Safety. The topic of sexual assault is (clearly) a complex one and can hardly be summed up by a few lines on the Gazette. So, I won't try. There are far better forums for such a weighty discussion. Use them.

  39. To ah: I went to college in a very peaceful place and there were rapes. I am not assuming things from TV. I now deal with rape victims on a regular basis and it is a complex issue. Rapes occur where and when a woman least expects it. Suffice it to say that if a woman feels unsafe walking around alone at night, she is not a "safety nut", but instead is otherwise aware of her vulnerabilities. You cannot guarantee safety anywhere, and I would venture that with your cavalier attitude, you are male. Otherwise, if you are female, you have led a charmed life, and I hope your feeling of safety continues. If you get raped, there will be people to help. Have you ever heard of 24 rape hotlines, and volunteers who come in to a hospital 24 hrs a day to help rape victims. Unfortunately that is because it is a common crime.

  40. parent2:

    I could be wrong, but I really don't believe anyone has been raped while walking around the Swarthmore campus in years, if not decades. Maybe forever. Virtually all campus forced sex offenses occur between people who "know" each other, date rape or close relatives of date rape.

    Having said that, I can totally understand a woman student not wanting to walk alone late at night, particular to the off-campus dorms. I think the whole town is very, very safe, but I can easily see calling security for a ride to PPR or ML or even Danawell from the library after midnight. If a student is at all uncomfortable, they should do that.

    The biggest things that Swarthmore could do to really improve safety (as opposed to some feel good thing that might have no impact) are:

    a) Convince students to not prop the dorm doors open and to lock their rooms.

    b) Welcome the presence of routine Swarthmore police patrols on campus.

    We also need to accept that it's now a zero sum budgeting game and will be for the next three years. If you propose a $500,000 blue light system, you have to accept the loss of $500,000 in existing programs, i.e. eliminating summer science research, or closing the health center at night, or eliminating the Arabic program, or whatever it is that will have to be the offsetting cut. Swarthmore has to cut millions from the operating budget, so the cost/benefit of new expenditures has to be weighed against the additional cuts that will have to be made.

  41. Anyone who doesn't see that "a parent" is making some valuable points (even if you disagree with some of his/her posts) is frighteningly closed-minded.

    I think a parent is making a pretty good case that the blue light systems don't do very much to increase safety (and if you think this campus is unsafe, DAMN are you sheltered). Also, consider the fact that, while you may be perfectly ok with Public Safety responding to every prank call, Public Safety being busy with wild goose chases would obviously tie them up and decrease response times on actual cases. Thinking logically about this crime and other potential scenarios, I agree that there are very few situations in which a blue light system would be more effective than a cell phone.

    On the other hand, if you believe that blue light systems will create an illusion of safety that will deter crime, let's see some data. Otherwise you're just acting on irrational fear instead of dealing with the (almost nonexistent) problem in a calm and intellectual manner.

    Now, if you want something constructive, how about a campaign to make sure every student has public safety's number programmed into their phone in an easily accessible manner? I'm not sure that I do…Good thing this campus is probably one of the safest places in the country.

  42. FYI. I have no idea if this system is any good, but those who are inclined to push for additional safety alert systems, please take the time to research this package from Rave Guardian:

    It is being installed at universities around the country, most recently the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where, at one time, every blue light on campus was pointed out on the tour!). This Rave system integrates all cellphones on campus, providing a panic button that displays the GPS location of the cellphone on a monitor in the security office. It also has a timed alert system, so you can program in 10 minutes before you leave the library and, if you haven't deactivated the alert after safely reaching your dorm, an alarm triggers in the security office with the current GPS location of your phone. Yadda, yadda, plus a bunch of bells and whistles like automatic cellphone alerts for campus emergencies, alerts for Blackboard updates in your courss, etc.

    If I'm reading the articles correctly, the cellphone companies appear to be underwriting at least some of the Rave cost because it helps them build networks for the rollout of cellphone software (i.e. the "next big thing").

    Take a look. Contact some people at UNC and other places where the system is in operation and go to the Deans with a proposal for a 21st century version of blue lights, rather than technology that colleges are paying to dismantle. I think the time taken to research the issues and potential solutions before making recommendations would give the effort much more credibility.

  43. It seems like the Rave system could have so many false positives that it could drive security crazy. For instance, what if you reach the dorm and forget to deactivate it? I do think a cell phone activation system when an event like the armed robbery occurred would have been very important, so students could stay put until notified that things were back to a safe environment.

    I also agree the blue light system seems unnecessary when there are so many cell phones that could be coordinated. I would think there must be a fairly inexpensive system available.

    I don't agree that Swarthmore wait for a stranger rape before women act as if there could be one at any time (mostly late at night.) The miracle is if there hasn't been one here yet. The first victim shouldn't be the trial case. Women not walking alone at night is the biggest deterrent, especially if not in a very well-populated, well-lit area.

    Not letting unknowns into dorms is also very important. There have been crimes on many college campuses stemming from that problem.

    It is better to be proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to crime prevention, and especially with rape prevention. Living in a way to try to prevent rape is a good lifelong habit to get into.

    Overall, better safe than sorry, and the attitude of "it can't happen here" really begs the question of prevention.

    One last thing: If you are programming public safety's number into your cell phone, then try not to set it off accidentally. This too will drive them crazy.

  44. I think the Clery statistics that Public Safety provides might provide a slightly more accurate picture of safety than "a parent"'s search of the Phoenix:

    Unfortunately, the picture painted by these statistics isn't quite as rosy as "a parent" would have you believe. Just because it didn't make it into the Phoenix doesn't mean it didn't happen.

    As for "a parent"'s suggestion that we convince people to not prop open dorm doors, the "stop the prop" campaign has been going on since my freshman year, and doors still get propped. It is clear we need a better system to secure our campus and our dorms than to just talk about being safe, and while I personally do not know the best way of going about that goal, it is issue that needs to be addressed.

  45. I already posted the Clery stats for Swarthmore. All of the "aggravated assaults" listed on the Clery report stem from student fights (like the drunken brawl outside the frats a couple years ago) or intoxicated students resisting arrest and being charged for assaulting a police officer. You can match them up if you refer to the Phoenix archives. An "aggravated assault" is so rare at Swarthmore (even when it is of the simple resisting arrest kind) that it almost always makes the "news".

    "Burlary" is any report of a missing item from a personal space like a dorm room. For example, calling security and saying "I think somebody stole my iPod from on top of my desk" is a reported burglary. Larceny is any reported theft from public space, e.g. stealing an iPod from McCabe. Both categories include some reports that probably are thefts and some reports that probably aren't.

    I'll defer to others on the forced sex offenses. I, personally, have never seen a report of a rape at Swarthmore that could not be characterized as "date rape" or "hookup rape" or whatever you want to call it. I've never seen a report of a stranger coming onto campus and raping a Swarthmore student — not in any of the history books, not in any of the Phoenix archives, nowhwere. Maybe someone with long institutional knowledge, like a Dean Gross would know of such an incident. There has been a murder at Swarthmore — back in the 1950s a student murdered his roommate!

  46. @parent2
    Yes, can't go wrong living in fear, even if proved irrational by a sample size of 145 or so years of decently safe campus life (prove me wrong with data).

    I think women should be empowered to be alone outside if there's no evidence of any threat, but maybe that's just me.

    As Yoda once said, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." I think JFK weighed in on this too, but I'll stick with Yoda…

  47. Peter '11: easy for you to say, but please read experiences of women who have been raped in "safe" places. Rape, by its nature, is a crime that does tend to happen when one least expects it. And it follows a woman forever. Some of the safest places are the most dangerous. Unfortunately, I would advise that a woman has to operate with caution in life. This does not lead to a life of fear, but of being careful and aware. Being raped leads to a completely changed life, and whatever one can do to prevent it is crucial. Being free of fear is important, I agree. But rape is a real threat in this word, and we as women have to be very realistic. I have no idea who Yoda is, and what his or her relationship is to rape prevention and counseling. I also think that with all due respect, JFK was not the world's expert on safe sex and rape prevention, but that is another completely different discussion, which I will be happy to have if you think this is an appropriate forum.

  48. By the way, I did not mean to imply that JFK was ever implicated in rape, I just don't see him volunteering to man a 24 hour hotlines for rape victims. That would have been more like LBJ and the Great Society. Or maybe not. Probably have to wait until Betty Ford, as that would be most in character for her. Or Yoda?

  49. “I have no idea who Yoda is, and what his or her relationship is to rape prevention and counseling.”


  50. So I get the whole wanting to prevent crime approach to this situation. But I think that everyone really needs to take into account how rarely events like this happen. It simply does not make sense to spend boatloads of money that the college doesn't have to implement a security system that is going to do practically nothing. And yes, it will do practically nothing, as confirmed by the number of crimes that have occurred on campus in Swat's history.
    I feel like there's an attitude that "if one crime is prevented, then it's worth it!" or, "you can't put a price on the safety of our students!". But you can put a price on these things. That's what the college has done, that's why we don't have a blue light system, and that's what makes the most sense.

  51. AYC: I agree that it does not take "boatloads of
    money" to prevent crime. I think that improved campus lighting is worth doing, if feasible. Students, faculty and/or staff not walking alone at night, particularly in areas that are not well-lit or are further out, is also worth emphasizing. Common sense should prevail in crime prevention. Rape occurs with the element of surprise, and that is why women will always need to be careful, even in safer areas. I am sure that there are many students involved in the area of rape prevention and survival who can speak to this.
    Anyhow, I appreciate the picture of Yoda, whom I feel could prevent many crimes. But this is enough parental input for now. I am sure that all of you very impressive Swat students can take on this discussion! Thank you for listening.

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