The Key to Preventing Crime
Published: Friday, February 1, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 1, 2013 01:02
Lock your doors.
This is a well-known instruction, and one that students — most of the time — appear to follow. But in the wake of another rash of burglaries in residence halls across campus, we must realize that “most of the time” doesn’t cut it. If students can’t be counted on to heed that warning, it’s time for the university to do it for them.
To prevent further burglaries, the university should make all the doors in on-campus residences and faculty offices automatically lock when closed.
Although Georgetown’s crime record compares favorably to other urban colleges, the Hilltop is consistently victim to preventable burglaries, thefts and unlawful entries — preventable because most of these on-campus crimes do not involve forced entries but are merely results of a door being left unlocked.
When students live together in dormitories, it becomes an easy habit to leave doors unlocked or simply to assume one’s roommate is still somewhere in the residence. Automatically locking doors would provide an easy solution to the risks presented by communal living.
Some residence halls, including Alumni Square and New South Hall, are already equipped with automatic locks on their doors. The Department of Public Service, in its annual crime report and monthly crime logs, reported that a total of 40 burglaries and unlawful entries occurred in on-campus residences and faculty offices last year. Only one occurred in New South Hall, and none were reported in Alumni Square.
A review of the 2012 crime archives also shows that faculty offices had 18 burglaries — more than any other building. The auto-lock policy should be extended to protect professors’ offices and labs as well as student residences.
Such a policy would require an adjustment period. Students would be responsible for having their key at all times, lest they be locked out. For students in freshman or other traditional dorms, this means bringing your key every time you leave your room — whether it’s to go to the common room, your next-door neighbors’ room or the shower. While it may be odd at first, students in New South and Alumni Square have demonstrated that such a protocol is possible.
As students adapt to this change, the Resident Hall Offices would be forced to accommodate a higher number of lockout requests, but the current student fee for getting locked out is already a sufficient motivation to avoid abusing the RHO service.
This lock change could be accompanied with an initial grace period on lockout request fees. Even without a grace period, the frustration of adjusting and the burden of lockout fees should be weighed against the interest of preventing further burglaries: A $5 or $10 lockout fee pales in comparison to the cost of replacing a stolen laptop or phone.
In an ideal world, there would be no burglaries or forced entries, and Georgetown students would always remember to lock their doors when necessary. The recent crime record, however, demonstrates the need for a more dramatic solution. Automatically locking doors provides a value of protection that far outweighs the cost of inconvenience.