Boston and Cambridge are relatively safe as long as you use common sense. It is always better not to walk outside alone late at night or in the dark, no matter how safe the area seems. Crimes can and do take place in broad daylight from time to time. Your safety may depend on your alertness and ability to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation. If you are approached by a robber and asked for your belongings, DO NOT RESIST. Give the robbers what they want. The robbers want your valuables, not you. We encourage you to visit the Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) should you have any questions regarding safety issues.

If you are ever involved in an emergency situation (such as a car accident, fire, robbery, or assault) you should contact the police in the city or town by calling 911. You can also call the HUPD at (617) 495-1212 if the situation takes place on-campus. If you need the assistance of a mental health professional to discuss problems connected with your emergency situation, call University Health Services/Mental Health or the HUPD for assistance in getting help.

Harvard Resources for Your Safety

Below are services offered by the HUPD.

  • Playing It Safe is a guidebook.
  • Harvard Shuttle Bus and the Medical Area Shuttle
  • Evening Van Service One can arrange transportation between University locations and the nearest Shuttle Bus stop between 7 pm and 2:45 am. This service should be used only if one has no other safe alternative because there is only one car to serve the entire University community. It may be necessary to wait for the van to arrive, since service is provided in order of calls received, and advance appointments cannot be made. This service is not designed to provide individuals with transportation on a regular basis; any person who requires regular assistance should seek alternative arrangements.
  • Harvard University Campus Escort Program provides walking escorts for students, faculty and staff seven nights a week during the academic year and covers the Yard, River, and Quad areas.

Safety When Walking/Exercising

  • Walk or jog in well-lit areas after dark, in groups of two or more whenever possible. Avoid dark areas, walkways between bushes, and recessed doorways.
  • Do not carry large sums of cash; if possible, use checks or credit cards. Do not display money or credit cards openly. Use care when at an Automatic Teller Machine (ATM).
  • Know where emergency telephones, public telephone booths, and blue university telephones are located.
  • Exercise with a friend and avoid using ear phones (iPod, etc.).
  • Be alert to your surroundings. If you think you are being followed go to a more public place such as a store or restaurant as quickly as possible. Look behind to show that you are aware that someone is there. Do not lead the person to your home. If possible, call for a taxi.
  • If uncertain of the safety of your route, take a shuttle bus or a taxi, walk with a friend, or call the Harvard Police for an escort. Do not accept rides from strangers.

Safety When Driving

  • Children under age eight and under 57 inches in height must be securely strapped in a child's safety restraint seat, which must meet certain legal specifications. Children over age eight are required by law in Massachusetts to wear seatbelts; you may be fined for not observing this law.
  • Children must never be left alone in a car, even for a very short time. Doing so could cause serious consequences, possibly even the arrest of the individual responsible.
  • When you return to your parked car after dark, have the key ready to unlock the door. Look inside the car first to make sure no one is hiding inside.
  • Never drive after consuming alcohol and/or drugs.
  • If there is car trouble, raise the car's hood and turn on the flashing emergency lights. Wait inside with the doors locked. If people stop to help, do not get out of the car. Instead, ask them to call the police.
  • If another car is in trouble, do not stop to help. Call the police.

Safety At Home

  • Before opening your door to unannounced visitors, such as salesmen or employees of the electric or gas company, ask to be shown an identification card.
  • Report broken locks, windows, doors, and hallway lights that are burned out to your landlord.
  • If you receive obscene or nuisance phone calls, hang up immediately. If calls persist, notify the police.
  • Make sure all fire and smoke alarms are in working order. Test them on a regular basis. If you are not sure how to do this, ask the landlord.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits by using too many extension cords, lamps, or appliances. Be sure that electrical appliances from overseas can be used safely in this country.
  • Emergency numbers are listed in the inside the front cover of the telephone book.