Demystifying security alerts


Emergency phones on campus give students a way to contact police in a crisis. Ishaan Taylor/Observer

Jasmine Gallup, Staff Reporter

Security alerts are a mystery to most students: Why do we receive an alert for a cell phone theft, but no alert when a car crashes into Kent Hale Smith? What is the logic behind the information that the Case Western Reserve Police and Security Services Department decides to provide us and the information they don’t?

Security alerts on all college campuses in the United States are governed by the Clery Act, a federal law passed in 1990 that requires all institutions of higher learning to give “timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students or employees.” Essentially, Case Police and Security Services are only required to send out security alerts for crimes that they deem as presenting an immediate threat.

“The crimes we’re required to report on tend to be more serious crimes,” said Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko of the Case Western Reserve Police and Security Services Department. “Things like robberies and what are defined as ‘crimes against persons.’ We don’t really report bike thefts or laptop thefts or things like it. What it is and where it was are the determining factors.”

The Clery Act was originally established to prevent colleges from perpetuating misinformation about the security of their campus, and to allow full disclosure to students and parents about the crimes that occur on and around campus.

CWRU’s compliance with the Clery Act has been solid, but what they define as a threat to campus is, in many student’s eyes, lacking. For example, no security alert was sent out late last year after a car crashed into Kent Hale Smith because the police apprehended the suspects within minutes. Still, such a dramatic event on our campus would, to most, warrant notification.

Other crimes that occur more frequently also go without notification. Car thefts, specifically, have been a problem for many students, but the campus is not notified when they happen. Junior Brittany Chung, who had her car stolen out of the parking lot across from Wade over the summer, was concerned when there was no security alert or notification sent to students.

“No one communicated,” she said. “No security alert… you know, caution residents, be careful when you’re parking your cars.”

According to Daberko, students aren’t notified of many car thefts because the police believe that they are isolated incidents.

“Car theft is a concern,” he said. “If we see a pattern or a large number of them, we might put something out, but in general that’s not a crime against persons… If it’s not too threatening to people, we don’t send out alerts about those.”

Ultimately, the fact that the Case Western Reserve Police and Security Services Department are meeting the requirements set by the Clery Act by giving timely warnings and making crime logs and statistics freely available online is not enough to reassure Chung, or most of the other students on campus.

“I just don’t have trust in campus security anymore,” said Chung. “I think if someone is bold enough to steal a car in broad daylight, who knows what they might do at nighttime? Especially a car that was parked… in that central area where I knew people would see it. I thought I didn’t have to worry about it… but apparently, I have to.”

“Campus security, in essence, it’s a good plan,” said Chung. “You always have a plan in place, but sometimes things don’t go the way they should.”