Make crime alerts more transparent

The University should publish detailed criteria for what requires the sending of a crime alert.

In her most recent public safety update, Vice President of University Services Pamela Wheelock explained why the University of Minnesota had not sent a crime alert about a recent armed robbery. The Jan. 25 robbery, reported by the Minnesota Daily last week, involved a student and occurred several blocks from campus near Marcy Park.

Because the robbery wasn’t reported to police for five days, Wheelock said it no longer represented a “serious and ongoing threat,” which is required for issuing a campus crime alert.

The University sends crime alerts in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, a federal law requiring, among other things, “timely reports” of crime affecting students.

The rules covering these reports are vague, only requiring reports for crimes considered a threat to university employees or students. The specifics — especially the characteristics of crimes that would trigger a report — are largely up for interpretation by the school. The University’s stated policies aren’t much more specific. We argue the robbery last month warranted a crime alert, especially considering the number of other crimes that have occurred around Marcy Park and triggered alerts.

But this individual crime isn’t as important as the University’s policy for issuing alerts, which should be more transparent. Though every case is different, publishing the broad but specific criteria for issuing alerts would help students know which crimes they’re notified
of — and which ones they aren’t.