Black males profiled by TU crime alerts
Now that we are all festively plump and happy, it is time to rekindle the fire that was lit under our butts at the T.U. Crime Alert Town Hall.
The Town Hall, led by Dr. Bynum and Dr. Aseltine, was attended by over a hundred students, staff, and faculty, including representatives from TUPD. As student co-organizers of the Town Hall, we recognize there is always going to be tension present when discussing topics related to race, crime and inequality, but the overall cooperative nature of the event was refreshing. The true face of democracy revealed itself through constructive remarks on the subject. Our purpose here, as allies to the anti-racist effort, is to refocus on the biased nature of the Crime Alerts:
1) The Crime Alert subject descriptions create a fear of blackness on campus.
2) The Crime Alerts inconsistently report certain crimes (i.e. reporting robberies, but not sexual assaults, hit and runs, and other crimes that impact our safety).
One of the purposes of the Town Hall was to raise awareness that the Crime Alerts were creating a poor representation of innocent black male students, making them feel targeted and unsafe on campus. #ComeTogetherTU wanted to give the community an opportunity to address the Crime Alerts and remedy the resulting stereotypes about black men and students in the Towson area.
Based on information released by the Police Commission from the fall 2013 semester alone, it seems that the only danger a community member at Towson University could experience is being robbed by a black man in his early to mid-twenties wearing loose clothing somewhere in the vicinity of Towsontown Center or Donnybrook Apartments.
But what about sexual assaults? Hit-and-runs? Vandalism? We are rarely, if ever, alerted to these crimes, even though they are listed in TU’s crime log. A simple cross check to Baltimore County Police’s website (Precinct 6) shows the actual police blotter for the area is filled with home break-ins and sexual assaults. Why then, are we mainly being alerted to muggings committed by black men? Is this the common practice because America has yet to achieve a healthy dialogue about race?
We acknowledge that the TUPD is doing their job by following the Clery Act, which doesn’t require giving physical descriptions. But it is important to recognize that there is a difference between intent and impact; black male students on campus are being impacted in a negative way.
Since the bias of Crime Alerts has been addressed, two separate alerts have been released with the perpetrator described as a “white male.” Until this issue of biased Crime Alerts was brought up, there had only been one alert of an “older white male,” all other alerts have been “black males.” Is this recent attention to white crimes merely a coincidence, or is someone filtering what is and is not sent out for an alert? If so, how can the alerts reflect a more comprehensive picture of crime in Towson?
And, what is “danger” anyway? Who is safe and in what context? For example, the perpetrators of sexual assaults on campus are typically white and the victims are typically women. How is our notion of safety changed when we consider that a female student is more likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to be robbed? Crime Alerts are only a small portion of the bigger problem. Towson is a predominantly white university, and as a result, there is a need to advocate more for racial equality—especially in the face of those who deny that racism still exists on campus.
Hoping for a better tomorrow,
Sam Bollinger, Mollyann Hart, Shelley Owen, Stef Rain, Christina Raynor, Jessie Schaller, Shelby Thibeault, Julia Townsend, & Aubrie Veydt (Members of #ComeTogetherTU)