I’m very thankful that GWblogger64 has articulated his reaction to an article that I consider to be convincing, misleading, well-intentioned, and dangerous. Have a look at the article, and see if your reaction was similar to GWblogger64s:
Is it just me, or does it seem that the spur of criminal acts lately on and around campus are progressively getting worse? The recent thefts of the cell phones in GWU residential areas and the laptop from the Gelman Starbucks has struck me the most.
Here’s where the Hatchet staff—in the news or opinion sections—needs to step in and say: “No, none of this information suggests an escalating trend. These are just things you should be conscious of—in a Podunk-town mall or in a GW Starbucks.” That didn't happen. Here are my problems with this article:
- I looked at the Metropolitan Police website. In the area 207 mentioned in the article, there is no change between the 60-day period mentioned and the same period last year, although overall, all crimes have dropped by more than 40%. If you take a 1500 foot radius surrounding the library, you’ll find that crimes are down from last year, including categories related to robbery, by more than 50%. This area is much safer than the surrounding city, and even the relatively few crimes mentioned mostly occur along the outskirts of campus. http://crimemap.dc.gov/presentation/intro.asp
- The term suspicious is never defined, but Wheeler-Moore claims that they will be focusing on suspects, “[Many of them] are young black males between the ages of 13 all the way up to 20.” “Many of them” is an addition by the reporter. It would have been nice to have the context or the actual words, considering this is the closest we come to a definition of “suspicious” and “shifted-focus.”
- The reporter refers to University alerts, most of which are not investigated and have no conclusive suspects or witnesses aside from the alleged victim. I will remind you that students are required to file a report when they redeem most warranties for stolen property, and they are always asked to give a description of the suspect when appropriate.
- University alerts are just alerts, and they only represent a small fraction of university crime reports. This should never be used as an indication of overall safety. This might just mean that students are communicating with campus police rather than metro police, or it might mean that emails are being sent based on changing philosophies about what constitutes an immediate danger. None of these street cases are still listed on the advisory website (although there are plenty of snow warnings still up). The emails are better-safe-than-sorry precautions.
- Wheeler-Moore explains: “We’re having our officer’s stop [suspicious groups] and briefly speak with them and ask them for their information and what they're doing." Based on the description of suspects mentioned earlier, I see no significant difference between this and racial profiling.
- Most importantly: we are talking about what Lev Trubkovich, the GW senior interviewed, correctly labeled “crimes of opportunity.” Most of these “street robberies” involve a young man who quickly grabs a phone or piece of jewelry and runs. This happens everywhere and only represents a danger to our wallets. Also, these crimes can not be proven or prevented, except by our own careful vigilance. It’s ludicrous to claim that preemptive tactics will do anything but antagonize our neighbors.
People drive defensively so others don’t smash their fenders, we should also handle ourselves in public defensively. Remember, we are the outsiders here—considering that a pitiful percentage of GW population is made up of DC students—so why should people be harassed in Foggy Bottom when they can go anywhere else in the city and look like your average resident? Let’s get some perspective: an army of people in red coats, skin-tight pants and riding boots was enough to make Paul Revere suspicious, so should we put the trendy female population of GW on watch?
An education is supposed to help us dismiss our assumptions and stereotypes. This has to continue outside of the classroom, and articles like this are a disservice to people like GWBlogger64, who should be made familiar with his new city rather than afraid of it.