Unreported crime on campus lowers awareness
Receiving a crime alert is a notably common occurrence among Rutgers students. A matter of fact, so much so that it has become a staple of Rutgers between students. Nobody wants to “turn into a crime alert”.
Whether it be robbery, violence, or sexual assault, the reports tend to consist of intimidating and worrisome crimes — despite how nonchalant students have become towards it.
However, the most recent crime alert has stirred a little controversy within the Rutgers community and for good reason.
In the last week of September, Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) sent out an email informing students of an altercation at Livingston parking lot 103, in which both suspects were unaffiliated with Rutgers and armed with weapons. One held a machete, the other a gun. The gun was fired once at a parked car.
During the incident, RUPD sent out a mass text, warning to stay clear of the area because of an active police investigation. Then, it was updated hours later saying it was safe.
The problem with this is that there was no detail of the assailants being armed or that a gun was shot at the time. “Stay clear of the area” with no other information gives people the leeway to think it may be okay to linger around there. It may not be serious. Who knows? Nothing much was said.
Senior Tatianna Amatruda, head editor at TheTab Rutgers, was angered by this loose warning as well.
“I find it pretty damn infuriating that we weren’t made aware of the immediate danger of the whole situation. The RU alert was extremely vague and I think that if there are guns or machetes involved, there should be a lockdown. The whole thing was just very sketchy, and yeah they addressed it in an email. But again, there weren’t many details given. As an editor, breaking news is important — and I tried to get some writers over there to cover what was happening. Luckily, none of them could make it over there. I obviously wouldn’t have tried to have anyone cover it if I knew there were deadly weapons involved. Overall, it was a huge mess up that falls on the shoulders of both RUPD and Rutgers,” Amatruda said.
But even more important than the lack of detailed warning in this case is the fact that RUPD hasn’t even been reporting every crime.
“My roommate got $350 stolen and a laptop when our house was robbed. Thankfully, I only got $3 stolen and my license. We reported to the police but there wasn’t any crime alert regarding the incident. I feel like since there are often no reports on these situations, I didn’t think I’d be one of those people who suffered that,” senior Claudia Wai said.
Students may think they already receive too many crime alerts, but if they knew how many they could be receiving, they’d probably lock their doors more often and actually heed the safety warnings.
All crimes don’t turn into crime alerts. The RUPD Rutgers page explains how it is decided which crimes are made public to the community. It states a crime that “…constitutes a serious or continuing threat to the University community” will be sent as an alert.
But how are students supposed to keep themselves safe when they don’t even understand the extent to which crime is a problem in the area?
There is also reason to believe these crimes made public are also selected by the current trend in crime. For example, if there have been many robberies in the area, a crime alert on a robbery is more likely to be released the next time it happens.
As RUPD says on their page, “Crime Alerts will provide the impacted community with available information that will aid in the prevention of similar occurrences.”
But none of this reasoning excuses not releasing information about the real extent of crime in New Brunswick.
Sure, RUPD puts reminders of safety measures at the bottom of each crime alert, but that clearly isn’t enough.
According to RUPD’s own Safety Matters report, the crime level has stayed around the same level from 2013 to 2015, spiking in 2014.
While it’s hard to say how the community can lessen these crime rates, certainly RUPD could start trying different methods.
Perhaps a simple bi-weekly or monthly report on how many crimes occurred would help everyone understand that it’s a real issue that can affect anyone at anytime. For RUPD to sit with this knowledge though and let students ignorantly go through their days is a disservice.
Ignorance isn’t always bliss.