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To protect students, univ. must step up residential security

I was sitting in Shapiro lounge on Friday evening when my roommate came in and frantically asked whether I had borrowed a large sum from his wallet on his desk. I hadn’t, and upon returning anxiously to the room, I found that my wallet had been emptied as well. Someone had gone into our (carelessly) unlocked room in the early evening when it was vacant, stolen all the money that was readily accessible and left without a trace. It probably went down in less than 30 seconds.

My roommate and I filled out police reports, but there was nothing else to do, since stolen bills aren’t as traceable as a phone or a computer. This occurrence was the third time this style of untraceable, inexcusable and cold-hearted theft had taken place in our hallway during this school year. The first thought that came to mind was, “But we’re at Brandeis, this doesn’t happen here!” Unfortunately that sense is a misapprehension, as crime happens here just as it does everywhere else in the world. There will always be people who fail to grasp the moral concept of respect for personal property, and the repercussions, even on those who play by the rules, are all too real. Purses are pilfered, sunglasses are swiped and laptops are looted.

Door locks remain the simplest solution for protecting one’s belongings; however they are not always convenient or easy to remember. When leaving a room for just a minute, it’s sometimes easier to leave the door unlocked. It’s easy to leave the door unlocked so that friends can come and go more conveniently. Regardless, forgetting to lock the door is an easy mistake that’s almost impossible to stop from happening now and again.

This recent series of petty thefts is a symptom of the greater problem of inadequate residence hall security. In order to access the Brandeis campus, one merely has to stroll or drive right in. Although there is a gatehouse, it is not required to drive through or check with a security officer on the way in. Veritably, a process of signing-in would consume important time and hinder traffic, but a minimum of being logged by a camera would be an improvement that could protect the lives and safety of students.

Once on campus, access to living spaces is troublingly easy. Standing by an entryway for long enough will inevitably result in a student opening a door, even for a complete stranger. In situations like this, the trespasser is usually present to drop menus under residence doors or deliver food, but the ease with which an outsider can enter a building without proper credentials is startling. The fact that a potentially dangerous individual can gain free access to one of our residence halls with a “Can you let me in?” is unacceptable. Some universities have a check-in process during the nighttime hours, while others have a sentry present during the same time. Both of these measures increase the safety of residents. That is not to say that Brandeis should adopt these measures, but there must be options that can be considered beyond the easily bypassed swipe system.

To deter these sorts of incidents, the cheapest solution would be to install a small camera in residence entryways. A camera would have cost far less than the property that has been stolen in halls up to this point, and it may act as a discouragement from unknown strangers entering into buildings. These cameras would not be present for unnecessary observation or surveillance, and they would be there solely for the university police’s use, not that of the Department of Community Living or another non-police office. They would not have to record audio, they would not have to be constantly monitored and their records would not have to be permanently saved. In order to gather evidence (identifying a suspect) following a disturbance, authorities realistically only need the previous 24 hours of data.

This is not a savory option, as we all have reasonable expectations of privacy. Like most, I am repelled by the idea of being monitored unnecessarily. One doesn’t need to be hiding something in order to desire being left without observers; the right to be secluded is basic to the nature of being free. The truth is that certain methods of surveillance are not as necessary for safety as some would contend. However, for community safekeeping, we enter into agreements for common measures to be taken for our collective care. With that in mind, a handful of entryway cameras with short-term recycled recording would be a reasonable price to pay for the safety of us all.

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