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Larceny Is Favorite Campus Crime

Larceny continued to be the largest category of crime on the MIT campus during 1991, but both the number of reported thefts of Institute property and the dollar loss were down from the year before.

Violent crimes continued to be low and there were no reported incidents of rape or acquaintance rape in 1991, the annual report of the Campus Police Department report shows.

Of the 28 reported incidents of crimes against persons in 1991 (an increase of 5 over the previous year), 13 involved assault and battery, 5 assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, 4 assault, 3 assault and battery on a police officer, 2 armed robbery and 1 unarmed robbery.

Valid comparisons with other universities are difficult to make, MIT Police Chief Anne P. Glavin said, because not all campus police departments make public reports and because of differences in how various campuses classify and report crime incidents to their own communities.

However, based on the latest available federal figures (1991), MIT reported 9 violent crimes compared with a high of 40 among the 10 Massachusetts colleges which filed the voluntary reports that year, Chief Glavin said.

"One violent crime is one too many," Chief Glavin said, "and for the victims, there is little comfort in knowing that the community has had over the years a good record with respect to violent crime. We are working hard to maintain that record."

Some reporting uniformity is expected beginning next September when the federal Campus Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 takes effect. Under the act, all colleges will be required to report to their community incidents of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft and arson. MIT has made annual reports for many years in those categories. Overlooked by the new federal law for reporting purposes, however, is larceny, the biggest crime problem on many campuses, Chief Glavin said. Many campus security officials consider the omission a serious oversight and expect it will be corrected by subsequent legislation. MIT will continue to report annually on incidents of larceny.

Chief Glavin said increased campus community awareness contributed substantially to the 1991 decline in thefts of Institute property. She saluted the work of MIT staff members who serve on the Crime Prevention Coordinators Network and students who belong to Project Awareness for helping spotlight the problem.

"MIT's 'open campus' aspect means 24-hour access to campus buildings-a characteristic of the urban campus which causes hallways of campus buildings to seem more like extensions of the street rather than university corridors," Chief Glavin said in the report. "Since larceny is the major consequence of the open campus, members of the MIT community must be constantly aware of intruders on the campus. . . ."

The MIT report listed 159 incidents of theft of Institute property, down 20 percent from 1990. The dollar loss was $273,902, down 30 percent from the previous year. Computers and computer components were the most frequently stolen items.

Thefts of personal property from members of the MIT community-mostly wallets and pocketbooks-was up 33 percent in non-residence buildings. There were 406 incidents reported for a dollar loss of $65,351, 2 percent higher than the previous year.

There were 94 thefts in residence halls reported, down 6 percent from a year ago, the report said. The dollar value of personal property taken from residence buildings-mostly wallets, cash and audio equipment-was $30,806, a 3-percent increase over the previous year.

Bicycles and autos remained favorite targets of thieves. The number of bikes reported stolen in 1991, 171, was up from the 109 thefts reported the year before. There were 66 motor vehicle thefts reported, compared with 55 the year before.

A version of this article appeared in the June 17, 1992 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 36, Number 34).

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