A recent slew of crimes on and around the University of Minnesota campus has drawn media attention and scrutiny to University police.
In a letter to the editor printed in Wednesday’s Minnesota Daily, University police Chief Greg Hestness gave context to the recent crimes, outlined efforts by police to stop them and discussed how students can protect themselves. This was an encouraging step in the right direction from a police force that needs to be more proactive and transparent in informing students about crime on campus.
In his letter, Hestness encouraged students to read the crime alert emails sent to University students, faculty and staff. University police send these alerts in compliance with federal law, and they act as the most direct line of communication between police and the University community.
Unfortunately, these alerts aren’t working as well as they could. They’re little more than a police report grafted to the same generic advice about walking alone and being aware of one’s surroundings.
At worst, the alerts give conflicting or incorrect information. An alert sent Monday afternoon about a weekend sexual assault near Van Cleve Park contained two errors. The email misidentified the neighborhood the assault occurred in, and the alert’s map erroneously indicated the assault happened a block away from its real location.
These mistakes are dangerous and undermine the point of crime alerts. Furthermore, the boilerplate advice included in the alerts, while well-intentioned, begins to feel like victim-blaming the more it’s repeated.
Additional context and analysis, like in Hestness’ letter, would go a long way to make students safer and better informed.