Late last Friday afternoon, while many of us were at home enjoying the company of our families during the Thanksgiving break, a student was standing on a sidewalk with a gun to his forehead.

While you were at home, he was fearing for his life.

Georgetown’s crime problem is reaching frightening proportions, and the danger it poses can no longer be dismissed as an off-campus phenomenon. Increasingly, thefts and other crimes are taking place on-campus and even inside students’ residences, and the university’s reaction leaves much to be desired.

Over the past two months, dozens of cell phones, laptops, wallets and bicycles (even a tapestry!) have been stolen from campus residences and academic buildings. More often than not, the criminals are not apprehended. Apartments in Nevils and Henle were burgled because the locks to their doors didn’t work or the doors themselves weren’t fully functioning as deterrents to intruders.

One apartment in the Nordhoff section of Nevils was robbed twice in two months because its locks were broken each time.

And it only seems to be getting worse.

On Wednesday night, DPS officers told students in campus residence halls to lock their doors when in their rooms, alerting them to several burglaries that took place while students were at home.

After a brief investigation, this board discovered that the dorms do still have security guards, though we were unable to find out whether they serve any practical purpose.

The university has done little to increase the quality and scope of its security in recent years. In 2005, the university forgot to pay about 30 student guards for over a month. It had an opportunity to improve the situation earlier this year when the DeGioia administration renegotiated its contract with DPS officers. The university could have increased officers’ pay and benefits in order to attract and retain experienced personnel, but in the end, their salaries were raised to a still-uncompetitive rate of $15.60.

The attitude about safety extends off campus as well. For the past several years, the actions of the Metropolitan Police Department have demonstrated that it cares less about violent crime in the Georgetown community than it does about addressing noise problems.

After a student was shot on 33rd Street in 2006, Second District PD Lt. Felicia Lucas blamed student parties. In 2006, Second District Commander Andrew Solberg said that his officers are now focusing the attention of their patrols on students – again, not for their safety, but because of their disruptive socialization, and he expressed his desire to “lock up the people hosting the parties.”

MPD’s goals are clearly misplaced, but students can’t negotiate with them. The university must effectively lobby on behalf of students to realign MPD’s priorities to a more pressing goal: preventing violent crime.

But the robbery at gunpoint that took place on Friday was frightening for another reason: For three days, the university kept it a secret.

After a gunman murdered 32 members of the Virginia Tech community last April, that university was roundly criticized for failing to make students and staff aware that a deranged gunman was on campus. Days later at Georgetown, administrators hosted a town hall meeting in Sellinger Lounge to discuss how Georgetown would have reacted to such a situation.

Peter Luger, who is now the university’s director of safety operations, said that Georgetown has had emergency response procedures in place since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and would have responded more quickly than the Virginia Tech administration to such an event.

Months later, students have been left wondering why the university community was not notified more quickly that a fellow Hoya had been robbed just a few yards from Healy Lawn and that, like the murderer at Virginia Tech, a man with a gun had attacked a student.

The student facing a life-or-death situation on Friday night wasn’t in a rough neighborhood: He was on N Street, standing between Lauinger Library, Alumni Square and a row of university-owned townhouses. And yet, the students living in the three apartment complexes, a dormitory and the townhouses located within two blocks of the crime were not immediately informed of this threat.

It’s possible that the event went unreported because the student did not notify the university until at least a day later, but Georgetown’s seniors will remember a Friday in January 2005 when a student was grazed in the head by a bullet during a party in Alumni Square, just a few feet from the university’s main gates and within earshot of DPS officers. Nevertheless, students did not find out about the incident until it was reported in THE HOYA four days later. At the post-Virginia Tech meeting in April, Luger admitted that he was not familiar with what became known as “the Village B shooting” in Alumni Square.

The university must continue to work to improve safety. But beyond prevention and prosecution, the university’s leaders must do a better job of alerting students and faculty to the presence of dangerous individuals on and near campus. If those leaders are incapable or unable to do so, they should step aside so that someone else can.

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