Security Alerts: What are they good for?

Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko, Officer Mark

So we have gotten through the month of September— Homecoming 2013 was a big success, the Indians might be in the playoffs— and we here at Case Western Reserve University Police Department have had to issue our first security alerts of the new academic year. So perhaps a brief explanation of what security alerts are is in order.

Security alerts are issued through the mass email system any time a serious crime is reported to CWRU PD that occurred on or next to campus. Serious crimes are defined as crimes against persons— robberies or assaults, generally. We issue alerts both to keep the campus community informed of possible threats and because we, like all American universities, are required to by the Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) of 1990. In this aspect, college campuses are unique— your hometown police department does not have the same requirement to issue alerts, although many may have systems like reverse 911 in place for major emergencies.

CWRU PD strives to get alerts out quickly, but to some extent we are prisoners of the information we receive. We can only report what we hear about, so incidents that are not formally reported to the police department, or incidents that are reported hours after the fact impact our ability to get information out. We do our best to put out accurate descriptions of suspects that may be at large based on the information given to us by victims and/or witnesses. If a victim states they were robbed by a talking bear, we will put that out to give a timely warning to the community, even though we may suspect later investigation will find something different than what was first reported.

We can also be the prisoners of false information, which happened with one of our recent alerts that was later retracted. So be aware when you report an incident like a robbery to the police; you are triggering a system that is going to lead to a number of police officers, often from multiple agencies, devoting their time to searching for a suspect and a mass email that goes out to tens of thousands of campus community members. So if it really happened, call us right away— if it didn’t, don’t call— you are causing a lot of unnecessary activity and alarm to a lot of people, as well as breaking the law. Enough said.

On the Beat is a weekly safety column written by Sergeant Jeffrey Daberko & Officer Mark (The Crossing Guard) Chavis of CWRU PD. Send feedback to this or other columns at