The recent drop-off in Public Safety Alert emails, sent by the Georgetown University Police Department, would forgive students for thinking campus crime has finally ground to a halt — yet a glance at GUPD’s crime log archive hardly suggests a crime-free utopia. More than 30 offenses have been reported since the start of fall classes. Within this time frame, though, the Georgetown community has received just one Public Safety Alert email.
The university must ensure that its departments are transparent and fully communicative with students, especially in matters of safety. GUPD needs to notify staff and students of its recent change in crime-reporting criteria and should remain forthcoming about future developments in campus security policy.
Previously, Public Safety Alerts were a frequent occurrence, often appearing two or three times in a single week. However, this summer, university administrators chose to follow more stringent criteria for reporting on-campus crime to make Georgetown’s public safety operations more consistent with the federal campus security statute known as the Clery Act. As a result, GUPD will only send out emails for murder, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, manslaughter and arson.
This decision, which explains the decline in Public Safety Alert emails, was never communicated to the Georgetown community and was only made known to this editorial board through an interview with GUPD Chief Jay Gruber.
GUPD’s efforts to comply with federal law should be applauded. However,at a university that has grown accustomed to frequent notifications about campus crime, the abrupt and unannounced curtailing of Public Safety Alerts gives students a dangerous false sense of security. Campus safety alerts give students an idea of where and when burglaries have been taking place; if there are multiple burglaries on the 3500 block of O Street, students will be more vigilant when walking through these areas. Additionally, information on suspect descriptions are important for students who call in when observing suspect activities, as was the case last May when a student call led to the arrest of an armed robbery suspect outside of the Georgetown University Alumni Student Federal Credit Union.
Although irritating to some, Public Safety Alerts used to serve as a constant reminder for students and staff to be vigilant. While some students may enjoy not to having to hear about every laptop stolen on campus, the unanticipated lack of Public Safety Alerts this semester reduces this vigilance and threatens to aggravate campus crime.