Staff Editorial: Security should be in residence halls 24/7

Students should be able go to sleep each night assured that their residence halls are secure.

But in the past two weeks, there have been a number of burglaries where at least 10 electronics were stolen in three residence halls. And although each building requires students to tap their GWorlds to enter, not every residence hall has the same level of University Police Department surveillance daily. In fact, some do not even have guards or officers to monitor the doors at night, let alone during the day.

It is impossible to anticipate or prevent every crime, but it is likely that some of these burglaries could have been prevented if employees manned the front desks of these buildings. Security surely serves as a deterrence for criminals.

Thurston Hall consistently has desk attendants who monitor the lobby and entry. But others, like Munson Hall and The West End, which are on the same street as the Foggy Bottom Metro and just as vulnerable to unwanted visitors, rarely have any employees stationed in the lobby.

UPD Chief Kevin Hay said students must be vigilant and ensure that when they tap into their buildings with a GWorld, there are no individuals following them inside without also tapping their IDs. Crime is a community problem, and students play a critical role in ensuring their personal property is safe. Students should always lock their doors during the day and night to prevent theft or burglaries.

But it is not the responsibility of a student to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building.

Individuals who lack access to a residence hall can easily wait for a student to open the door so they can slip inside.

In September 2011, a man followed a female student into City Hall and attempted to sexually assault her. One month later, UPD arrested a man who trailed into The West End behind students. He entered rooms and allegedly punched students.

Students pay between $7,150 and $13,400 to live in campus residence halls – in many cases, paying more than it would cost to live in an off-campus apartment with a doorman. They should at least be secure.

To make security more of a priority, the University is requesting money in the budget from the Board of Trustees Friday that would provide funding for electronic locks that would function with GWorlds, similar to hotel key cards. This is a laudable request. But the University should also place at least one employee – be it a security guard or desk attendant – in each residence hall lobby to monitor the building at all times.

Having a staff member in some residence halls only during the night hours is not enough: Burglaries can and do happen at all times of the day. But they are less likely to happen if there is some form of security in buildings.

Some residence halls will naturally need heightened security due to their size or location on campus. But no residence hall should be left completely unprotected beyond an initial door tap.

Temple, Howard and Northeastern universities – all schools that maintain a 24-hour security presence in all of their residence halls – see significantly fewer burglaries than GW.

Students’ safety should be a top priority, especially with GW in the heart of a city. UPD has been successful in curtailing burglaries in recent years, down from more than 100 cases in 2009 to 39 in 2011.

But until that number is reduced to zero, there is still work that must be done.

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