The Georgetown University Police Department began sending fewer Public Safety Alerts in August after it reformed its guidelines to only notify students of major crime, such as murders, sex offenses and aggravated assaults.
After a review by university leadership, GUPD changed the Public Safety Alert methodology in accordance with the 1990 Clery Act, which requires that institutions of higher education record and disseminate crime data to the campus community and provide timely warnings of safety threats to students and employees.
“We looked closely at the Clery Act requirements as well as surveying our local and national peers,” GUPD Chief Jay Gruber wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We discovered that we were sending out too many alerts on issues that were not mandated by the Clery Act.”
Under the new system, GUPD will send campus-wide alerts exclusively for murders, sex offenses, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts, manslaughters and arson.
According to Gruber, students have been seeing fewer Public Safety Alerts recently due to a decline in the number of crimes requiring notification of the community. In addition to official alerts, GUPD maintains a daily crime log, which can be found on the department’s website and includes detailed descriptions of less serious crime, like petty theft and simple assaults.
“We are now in line with the Clery Act as well as our local and national peers on the issue of Public Safety Alerts,” Gruber wrote.
Chris Gough (COL ’18) expressed gratitude that he is no longer being inundated with emails.
“I’m certainly happy that they haven’t been blowing up my phone quite as much, so it’s easier to do things without the constant emails,” Gough said. “I certainly think it’s a better idea than what they were doing in the past, but until it’s actually tested practically we have no way of knowing how effective it will be.”
Yu He (GRD ’18), however, said she appreciated being informed of all potential safety issues under the prior system.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” He said. “I would appreciate if they can keep us alert about what’s going on around this community.”
Lily Ryan (COL ’18) said she fears that students will be more careless with their belongings if they are not reminded of theft on campus.
“I guess I’m slightly less cognizant of thefts at least, or of like locking my room because I’m not hearing as much about things getting stolen out of dorm rooms,” Ryan said. “And I know that still is going on, so that could be a problem with not reporting.”
Abdulla Al Shirawi (MSB ’16) raised concerns about the campus alerts that will be omitted under the new methodology.
“It’s pretty bad, because before, we used to know what was happening on campus, we were more aware, and now it just seems like, you know, the campus is safe again, but it’s very subconscious,” Shirawi said. “We should know if anything is happening on campus because it’s important to us. … Some of the times it’s close to where I live, and I just want to know if something is happening there and if it’s happening to any of my neighbors.”
Marlena Konopka (SFS ’17) recommended a reformation of the current system to allow students to choose the alerts they receive.
“I don’t really look at emails from GUPD, even though I should and then the ones that I look at are always the worst ones,” Konopka said. “Maybe if they can make it like an opt-in or opt-out decision so that we don’t have to be bogged down if we don’t want to, but we should definitely get to decide.”
Hoya Staff Writer Gaia Mattiace contributed reporting.