The Yale police union is welcoming students by handing out 'Grim Reaper' survival guides warning them to 'remain on campus' to ensure their safety

Yale University
A view of the Yale campus.Michelle McLoughlin/Reuters
  • The Yale police union is distributing fliers to students warning them about crime in New Haven.

  • The flier instructs students to "remain on campus" and and "stay off the streets after 8 p.m."

  • The Yale Police chief told The New York Times he's "disgusted" by the union's message to students.

Each year, Yale University attracts students from across the globe, drawn to the Ivy League institution for its renowned academics and the vast opportunities that such an education affords its graduates.

But in recent days, the Yale Police Benevolent Association — the union representing officers at the sprawling campus in New Haven, Connecticut — has come under criticism from the university and city officials for distributing fliers warning students that it's not safe to venture beyond the the collegiate walls in the evenings.

The flier, which says that "some Yalies do manage to survive New Haven and even retain their personal property," points to crime statistics in the New England city that university officials insist is misleading and a tactic that the union is employing as it seeks a new contract.

It also instructs students to "remain on campus," "avoid public transportation," and "stay off the streets after 8 p.m."

Posted near the top of the flier is an illustration of the Grim Reaper with a pointed message: "Good luck."

The Yale fliers are similar to the "Welcome to Fear City" fliers given to tourists visiting New York City in the 1970s — when the city struggled with violent crime — which directed them to "stay off the streets after 6 p.m." and call for cabs in lieu of walking outside in the evenings.

Anthony Campbell, the chief of the Yale Police Department and the onetime police chief of New Haven, blasted the police union over its message to students.

"I am extremely hurt and sad and disgusted by the actions taken by the Yale Police Benevolent Association," he told The New York Times. "I think it is divisive and destructive for any police officer to disparage the city in which they work."

The union in its flier stated that "murders have doubled, burglaries are up 33 percent and motor vehicle thefts are up 56 percent" through the end of July. (According to official New Haven crime statistics, the numbers are accurate, with burglaries up from 177 last year to 235 through July 23 and car thefts having risen from 390 last year to 609 through July 23.)

But violent crime has declined by 16.2% through July 23, compared to last year.

And violent crime has also dropped by 29.2% since 2020, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker has pointed out.

"Overall, over the past three years or so, crime is down," Elicker told The Times. "While the actual numbers may be accurate, they don't present the full picture of what's going on."

Andrew Matthews, an attorney for the Yale police union and a former Yale Police Department officer, said that the flier was not being used as leverage in the union's contract talks.

"I don't think there was an attempt to fearmonger or scare people," he told The Times.

But he said that the officers wanted to leave an impression with students amid all the other messages that they would receive over the next few weeks.

"And without a doubt, their pamphlet stands out," he added.

However, Campbell, the Yale police chief, reiterated to the newspaper that he disagreed with the sort of impression that the flier was generating on campus.

"When you see, from the day you're moving in, that the police department doesn't have its house in order, then you start saying: 'Well, can I even count on you to tell me the truth and to really keep me safe?'" he said.

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