News of the robbery between Bostock and Perkins libraries this past Sunday has quickly spread across campus, alarming administrators and students alike. Their concern is understandable, as the location and time of the crime call into question the security of the entire campus. Although administrators and the Duke University Police Department should act to prevent future robberies, we caution against reactionary measures that either unnecessarily restrict campus activity or fail to directly address the problem at hand.
The nature of Sunday’s armed robbery sets it apart from previous robberies and break-ins at Duke. It occurred in an area near the heart of West Campus frequented by students, and the perpetrator managed to bring a concealed weapon onto campus.
Given that a general sense of safety is essential to the activities of Duke’s students and faculty, the University has a responsibility to effectively address the issue of campus security. Any measures the University takes, however, should not sacrifice campus activity or relations with the surrounding community.
The administration’s proposal to close roads around Duke’s campus, such as Towerview Road, does more harm than good. The proposal does not address the likely causes of Sunday’s robbery. A campus lockdown of this sort would also severely restrict student movement on and off campus. In fact, decreased access to campus could exacerbate security problems by forcing students who are off campus late at night to park farther away from their dorms.
Furthermore, closing down roads around campus fuels unwarranted hysteria about the incident and reinforces the myth that Durham is crime-ridden and dangerous, a falsehood that has continually undermined town-and-gown relations. We still do not know who the armed robber was, and we should not make assumptions about his background or origins.
Moreover, walling off Duke from Durham risks further alienating the surrounding community and deters students from enjoying Durham’s vibrant cultural and historical resources, many of which are underused by students.
Duke’s administration should instead focus on maintaining, and possibly increasing, high levels of security officers on all three campuses. Deterring criminals to come onto campus in the first place is critical for preventing, rather than just reacting to, crime. The administration should also work to improve officers’ ability to prevent crime. This can be done by increasing the ratio of DUPD officers to non-police security guards. DUPD officers are authorized to carry weapons and make arrests, unlike security officers who typically cannot do either.
Finally, the administration should widely publicize its current security efforts, such as educating students on where security officers are stationed and the security services provided to students.
Even as we question the wisdom of the latest proposal, we applaud the administration for how seriously it has reacted to last Sunday’s incident and similar crimes.
First and foremost, we want students to be safe, but, in ensuring their safety ,we should not needlessly sacrifice relations with Durham or student’s ability to enjoy the community around them.