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Safety more of a concern for students living off campus in Allston, crime statistics show

Although swiping into dormitories at Boston University is tedious, the ritual is a small price to pay for safety, said Elise Sullivan, a sophomore in BU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

She lived in Warren Towers her freshman year and said she appreciated the tight security.

“Signing people in and swiping in did get a little annoying at times,” Sullivan said, “but it was a nice reminder of how strict and secure the security in the building was and definitely left me with a sense of safety.”

Jessie Torrance, a CAS freshman and Warren Towers resident, said the university’s security measures offer some comfort to her.

“It’s hard not to feel safe when you have two security guards at the entrance of your building watching everyone who comes inside,” Torrance said.

BU “provides uniformed security coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the main entrances of the large residences . . . to ensure that only authorized residents and their guests enter University residences,” according to the university’s housing website.

Smaller dormitory-style and apartment-style residences, by contrast, have locked front-entrance doors, but no security guards.

With or without entryway guards regulating the flow of people into buildings, crimes still occur within BU residences.

In 2010, 29 in-dorm crimes were reported to the Boston University Police Department – 26 burglaries, two forcible sex offenses and one instance of aggravated assault, according to BUPD crime statistics.

BUPD also has blue-lighted telephone boxes scattered throughout campus that serve as a direct line to police in case of an emergency, security or otherwise.

Although some of the calls are related to residence safety, the majority are not, said Scott Paré, BU’s deputy director of public safety.

“The number-one reason we usually end up going to residences is due to a student that is under the influence [of drugs or alcohol],” Paré said. “They are having trouble even entering the building. They try and swipe their driver’s license or credit card to get in.”

The University Security Council, comprised of BUPD members and other administrators, meets weekly to suggest new security measures, according to BU’s website.

The preceding week’s crime reports are also discussed and analyzed, Paré said.

“I can say with a pretty good level of confidence that the dorms are safe,” he said. “Is [safety] a concern? It’s always going to be a concern because we want the students as safe as possible. But it seems that the security measures in place are working.”

Many BU students said although they feel safest while on campus, the lighter security of off-campus housing does not necessarily frighten them.

“I still feel comfortable living off campus because our neighborhood is pretty safe,” said Alex Hawley, a BU College of Communication junior who lives in a South Campus apartment. “For instance, I lock my bike outside my apartment building every night assuming no one will steal it. So far, I’ve still got my bike.”

He said living on the fourth floor increases his sense of safety.

In the Allston-Brighton police district, where many BU students reside in off-campus housing, there are higher crime statistics than on campus.

From Jan. 1 to March 18, there were 46 cases of burglary and attempted burglary, 25 cases of aggravated assault and 134 cases of larceny and attempted larceny in that area, according to Boston Police Department crime statistics.

Sullivan, who lives off campus in Allston, said her neighborhood does not give her the “same sense of safety” that on-campus housing does.

“During the day I feel safe in Allston because it’s really just a lot of college kids walking around . . .  the night is a little different,” she said.

Sullivan said during her time living in Allston, she has heard about shootings, a rape incident, an elusive arsonist and several robberies in the areas surrounding her neighborhood.

“We’ve never had to deal with a break-in, luckily, but friends of ours have,” she said. “Friends who lived in a house on Chester Street were robbed last year. It’s scary and definitely something we have to be aware of.”

In addition to taking such precautions as living above ground level and installing a bolt on the door to her apartment, Sullivan said she also avoids walking around by herself at night in Allston.

“I always am aware of my surroundings,” she said. “So far, I haven’t found myself in situations where I feel like I’m in any serious danger.”

Violet Sarosi, a BU COM sophomore who lives in Allston as well, said remaining alert and cautious often offers the most important protection.

“I think Allston is safe if you’re smart about it,” she said. “It’s extremely rare that anyone gets attacked or mugged, unless you provoke people or are unsafe about your escapades.”

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