When I arrived on campus a few weeks ago for the first time since January, it was quite a rush of emotion. Everything from watching the class of 2012 head for the rooftops wearing New Student Orientation name tags (something I’ve never quite understood) to ordering my first Chicken Madness (more out of a perverse feeling of duty than gastrointestinal rationality) took on a romanticized hue as the reality of senior year began to sink in. Some things had changed, of course. The schizophrenic architecture of the new MSB building had finally come to fruition, and revamped Leo’s had made it even harder to find a seat, a panini machine or even silverware. My beloved Darnall had even sprouted a sushi bar from its slimy depths. But more than anything else, I was excited by the enticing possibilities of living off campus.

In spectacular fashion over these last few weeks, however, all of us have been reminded of the reality of life in Georgetown: It can be a very dangerous place. I can barely clear my inbox fast enough as Department of Public Safety reports, ranging from the terrifying (armed assaults, the “choking” incident) to the bizarre (a man crawling into random people’s beds), pile up faster than THE HOYA can even print them. Most people I know are concerned, if not downright scared, at the thought of traveling almost anywhere at night, an impossible conundrum when classes, extracurricular activities and regular nightlife routinely take students away from their homes.

But despite the fact that crimes (and more importantly, violent crimes) seem to be on the rise, the university has offered only tentative steps toward tackling the problem. The sexual assault defense program (“DPS to Start Sexual Assault Defense Program,” THE HOYA, Sept. 5, 2008, A1) that many other universities have long offered is a mild improvement, but far from the type of university policy that will make an immediate and noticeable difference. Similarly, a program to “build relationships” between DPS officers and students might be useful, but misses the point: Georgetown University is simply not properly investing money in protecting its students.

The problem is not with DPS itself: The majority of officers I’ve met over the years are kind, compassionate individuals who genuinely care about promoting student safety on campus. I believe the real problem is twofold.

First, DPS officers invest entirely too much time enforcing the university’s mind-numbing alcohol code. I don’t believe that students should be given a carte blanche to drink on campus. But I can barely wrap my head around the fact that students are being attacked 50 yards from the front gates while a DPS officer is breaking up a small and inoffensive party. It’s painful to think that three or four officers are strolling around Henle Village looking for noise while a student may be getting attacked elsewhere on campus.

But on some level, that’s beside the point. Georgetown is, of course, free to enforce its own rules as it sees fit – provided that it also fully prioritizes and invests in the safety of its student body. The simple fact is that brighter lights and defense classes only begin to confront the problem. Many small steps can be taken to help decrease the odds of being attacked, but the actual way to prevent real crimes is through the physical presence of a nearby officer. It’s true that Georgetown students occupy a large area: one that ultimately might be too large to fully patrol. But these crimes are not all happening 10 blocks from campus, they’re happening much closer (and sometimes even on campus). I find it hard to believe that Georgetown has stretched its financial resources to the limit, and there can be no excuses for penny-pinching when safety is an issue.

I understand that there would be heavy costs associated with increasing the size of the DPS patrol. It would undoubtedly be more difficult than setting up a few telephones, holding some class sessions, and pretending that the new reality of Georgetown students’ lives isn’t a feeling of danger that, night after night, wears down the psyches of students simply trying to make it home from Lauinger or The Tombs.

I cringe when I see high school students on college tours looking at the bold headlines of THE HOYA, which week after week recount Georgetown’s crime problem. The most striking aspects of Georgetown for incoming freshmen or prospective students should be its history, its shared culture and the unbelievable educational opportunities it provides. When students are afraid to even leave their homes, Georgetown fails to deliver on its promise as one of the world’s great educational institutions.

Thomas Miller is a senior in the College.

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