Column: More is needed for safe passage

Column: More is needed for safe passage

The No. 1 concern of nervous suburban parents when they send their babies off to college in the big city is, “Will my baby be safe?”.

Why, yes, says NUPD. Northeastern even has an entire group of people devoted exclusively to safety, the Division of Public Safety. And their most soothing service is the escort, offered just so you can get your drunk/cold/scared shitless ass home from campus to, say, Mission Hill.

The only problem with that, of course, is your destination must fall within one mile of the center of campus. My apartment just a block and a half from Brigham Circle, is 1.1 miles from the university’s official address. What does that make me in the middle of the night? Shit out of luck – and with too good a chance of getting mugged, beaten, raped, shot or stabbed.

And they are quite strict about that radius, no matter how scared you are. A case study: One night I was visiting a friend on St. Alphonsus Street, just a few blocks from where I live now. At about 3 a.m., I looked up the escort service digits online.

But the woman who answered the phone told me they wouldn’t come get me and drive to my godforsaken apartment on Westland Avenue. Why? Because I wasn’t within a mile of campus. (According to Google Maps, I was only 0.8 miles from campus. Go figure.)

You know, it’s hard to afford cabs when you pay private school tuition. But it’s worth it, right, because of the services offered.

Right. Thanks, public safety. (On another note, thanks to the MBTA for shutting down the T a good hour and a half before the bars close or anyone would voluntarily go home for the night.)

Now, when I started writing this week’s column I had it in mind to extend my congratulations (albeit skeptical ones) to Northeastern for the soon-to-be-available all-night shuttle between Ruggles, Brigham Circle and Landmark Center, way over on the other side of the Fens.

But as I played some more with Google Maps, I realized both the Circle and the Center are within one mile of campus. So although the shuttle will be more convenient than the escort service because you won’t have to remember the number or wait around for a cruiser. It’s not really offering anything much safer. Especially when you consider the shuttle that goes from Snell Library and Ruggles to anywhere within a mile of campus.

Well, the new shuttle does have one value: You can get back to campus.

This is a legitimate concern for all the freshmen who stumble into my neighborhood every weekend and need to get back to Stetson without getting mom’s credit card stolen.

Sorry, that was harsh. Really, no, it’s a fantastic thing, getting the kids back to campus. I wish I had that when I was your age. If it had been around that night on St. Alphonsus Street I could have strolled a few blocks down Tremont Street and hopped right on.

But then there’s another problem. I would be walking alone down Tremont Street in Roxbury at 3 a.m.

When I take the T home at 12:45 a.m., or the bus at 1:15 a.m., I get off at Brigham Circle and hike up the hill. It’s a short walk, well-lit, frequented by Boston Police cars and teeming with other drunk college kids.

But I was unnerved one night last week as I approached home, a little after 1 a.m. As I came around the corner, I heard yelling and garbage cans crashing into the sidewalk – your standard Friday night ruckus. Nothing to be concerned about. I even heard girls giggling.

But then I realized the garbage cans were being thrown by a group of kids at a middle-aged man. I saw him stand up from the street, blood streaming down one side of his face, and stagger up the hill. One of the kids yelled “Faggot!” after him. Insult to injury, literally.

One bystander asked if he was OK, and he drunkenly yelled, “Fuck no, I’m not OK!” But no one offered help. They just stopped and stared.

So I called 911 as I went inside, and judging from what I heard from my window when the police arrived, the ambulance tracked down the guy and he was, in fact, OK.

Well, that’s good and I got to pat myself on the back for being a good samaritan. Three nights later, when I heard a gunshot from my back porch, the cops showed up again – and pretty quick, both times. I didn’t read about any shootings in the newspaper the next day – none that were that close, anyway.

I’m getting carried away, but the point is, the most dangerous part of my trip home is never the walk down Huntington. It’s the side streets, where shots occasionally ring out and people occasionally get the shit beaten out of them.

So, Northeastern, we appreciate the effort but this shuttle service is not the bastion of safety you say it is. It looks great on paper, and hey, maybe it’ll be fantastic in practice, but from here on the Hill it looks like not quite enough.

– Rachel Slajda can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Reply