Answering the Call for Student Safety

Last weekend, a PA student was hit with an egg from a car as she stood next to the Phillips Academy campus at the corner of Main Street. The unsuspecting student was not facing her assaulter, who threw the egg from a moving vehicle. By the time she realized what had happened, the car was far down Main Street, out of sight. This student is not the only one who’s been victimized over the past years—one of the more publicized cases of Main Street harassment, as reported in the November 29, 2006 issue of The Phillipian, involved a shirtless young man verbally assaulting a Lower male with vulgarity before throwing him to the ground. It appears that student safety is at risk, and the school needs to take every action in order to minimize the threat of violent or abusive confrontation along Main Street. We do the best with the infrastructure in place, but when you’re waiting on Main Street in the dark, or you have your back turned, as was the case with the Upper girl, we have no information to impart upon PAPS. The case goes unreported, the situation goes unaddressed and the perpetrator goes unpunished. It is this exceeding difficulty in catching an assailant that causes most students to not report incidents such as Wendy’s frosties being thrown at freshmen, pumpkins being hurled out of car windows and profanities beyond “Catboner” being screamed with the appropriate hand signal accompaniment. The virtual helplessness of a lone Andover student standing on a curbside is all the more encouraging to those who shout and hurl objects while driving too fast for a license plate number to be recorded. Admittedly, most confrontations on Main Street are not prosecutable—we can’t seek to reprimand everyone who yells “Catboner!” at passing Andover students. Yet events in the past clearly show that serious situations do arise and, depending on the circumstances, require action by PAPS or the Andover Police Department. Tom Conlon, head of Public Safety, told The Phillipian that in cases of verbal or physical assault, students should directly contact PAPS, who may in turn notify the police. If the student catches even a portion of a license plate number, the police can run it and take appropriate action. A logical solution? Security cameras. Security cameras can easily catch license plate numbers, and the mere presence has been proven to reduce crime in almost all situations—from shoplifting to physical attacks, no one wants to be caught on film. According to school administrators and PAPS, Andover has never approached the idea of security cameras on Main Street. In order to install these cameras, the school would need permission from the state of Massachusetts, yet according to PAPS, requests to install devices on streetlights are not unprecedented. Cameras could even be positioned along the street on PA property, if necessary, which would require no permission from the state. Security camera systems like this are implemented on college campuses across the nation, and we urge school administrators to look into the concept of our own cameras. A camera infrastructure could systematically take pictures of Main Street and store them temporarily so that, should anything be reported, PAPS or the Andover Police could look at the images and find a way to identify the offenders. Of course, there are complications with such a system. How would the cameras be positioned? How much would they cost? Are cameras an unnecessary invasion of privacy? Regardless of these questions, student safety should be of greatest concern, and the benefits could outweigh the drawbacks. Therefore, we strongly urge administrators and the students to think about the possibility of installing a surveillance system on or near Main Street in hopes of protecting the students. This editorial represents the views of the Editorial Board CXXXII.