As winter approaches and daylight becomes increasingly rare, safety on and around campus is a concern for many students.
The Herald’s Fall 2019 poll revealed that almost 40 percent of undergraduate respondents felt “somewhat unsafe” or “very unsafe” outside in areas surrounding campus after dark — which includes Thayer Street, College Hill’s most central commercial hub. Students reported feeling more secure when on campus, with almost 80 percent of students polled saying they felt “somewhat safe” or “very safe” on campus.
The results varied by gender and race. Forty-four percent of female-identifying respondents reported feeling very or somewhat safe in areas surrounding campus after dark, compared to 79 percent of male-identifying respondents. Sixty-five percent of white students polled said they felt very or somewhat safe around campus, a significantly higher percentage than 52 percent of nonwhite students polled.
On Oct. 2 and 3, The Herald polled over 1,000 University students, collecting a sample that mirrors the demographic makeup of the student body. The responses about campus safety follow a series of robberies that shook some students living off campus over the summer and at the beginning of the academic year. From the first week of June until the first week of September, 41 burglaries were reported in District Nine, which includes much of College Hill. While these numbers are not abnormally high for summer months in Providence, according to Crime and Information Systems Specialist for the Providence Police Department Dan Clement, students nonetheless reported unease around the incidents, The Herald previously reported. Violent crime, on the other hand, has fallen in the area over the last year — decreasing from 21 reported incidences in 2018 to ten so far this year.
“There has been a spike in some property crime categories over the past couple of months. That can certainly make people feel unsafe but overall the area around the University is seeing less reported crime,” wrote Lindsay Lague, public information officer for PDPS, in an email to The Herald.
Some students interviewed by The Herald said they are especially nervous when walking on Thayer Street.
“When walking up Thayer at night, especially up north, I am definitely more cautious,” said Alexandra Blizter ’22.
Anna Kate Lembke ’23 shared this sentiment, recalling a night when she had concerns about walking on Thayer to get home from the house of her Meiklejohn peer advisor. “I knew I felt uncomfortable, so I asked my Meiklejohn to walk me home,” she said.
The University has worked to increase safety for students on and around campus — operating a shuttle and an OnCall transportation service that run seven days a week until 2 or 3 a.m. The University also provides SafeWalk — a service in which students can be escorted to their destinations by their peers — and has installed around 150 outdoor emergency phones illuminated by blue lights.
“I think a lot of students are unaware of the safety measures we have in place,” said Chief of Police Mark Porter.
Jordan Watts ’23 attributes feelings of security on campus to measures implemented by DPS. “I feel a lot safer on campus because there are people around and safety tools like the blue lights or DPS,” he said.
Emma McFall ’23 cited SafeWalk as a reason for feeling comfortable on College Hill. “I feel a lot safer knowing it is an option for students,” she said, though she has never taken advantage of the service.
Outside of University programs, there are other measures students can take to feel safer outside. “If I ever feel unsafe, I’ll let the person whose house I left know where I am, just in case,” said Bryan Zhang ’21.
“There are some moments when I get a little bit anxious, but for the most part I feel fine,” said Caymus Price ’20.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly named the acronym for the Providence Department of Public Safety as PPSD. The correction version of the acronym is PDPS. The Herald regrets the error.