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Crime alert system updated

13 April 2014 By Aaron Isrin, Staff Writer No Comments

The University has updated its campus crime alerts, changing how students, faculty and staff may receive their alerts and the affect they have on the Towson community.

Announced through a mass email on April 8, the University said that users will now be able to control when they receive their alerts and what kind of alerts they receive. The University has also removed the suspect descriptions from email alerts.

Towson’s Chief of Police Bernard Gerst said the changes were made to make the alerts more manageable and effective.

Users of campus alerts can choose whether they want to receive text alerts from crimes happening only on the campus or from both on and off the campus. They can also control whether they want to receive alerts only between 7 a.m and 11 p.m., as opposed to the current 24-hour alerts.

Gerst said that the alerts were too inconvenient for Towson community members that live off campus.

“If a staff or faculty member lives far off campus, maybe in another county, then the texts only disturb them since they’re not close enough to really be affected by the news,” Gerst said.

Junior Irvin Cordova said that he liked the idea of the new adjustments.

“I don’t really care about something going on in some other town, I’d rather be told just what happens on campus,” he said.

Gerst said that the new changes are intended to lower the number of alerts that are received so that people don’t get fatigued by the number of alerts, treat them as inconveniences and ignore them.

“We work to comply with Clery Act and we want to protect students and staff by keeping them informed…and that can only be done when alerts are taken seriously,” he said.

Email alerts will also no longer provide the suspect description after an incident has occurred because, as Gerst explained, the alerts are often too vague to be effective and have a negative impact on the black population at Towson.

The updates were made following a Town Hall Forum in the Liberal Arts Building Assistant in which the previous topics were discussed. Assistant professors Elyshia Aseltine, Susan Stuckey, Tara Bynum along with several students were responsible for holding the town hall meeting on Dec. 3.

Aseltine said she was glad the University listened to the group’s recommendations and removed the suspect descriptions from the email alerts.

Aseltine said that there are times when black men on campus are unfairly profiled due to the broad and vague descriptions on the alerts that often depict the suspect as black.

“There’s a level of victimization for those who have the police called on them because they match the profile,” she said.

She said that a black male student was questioned by police earlier this semester, when he entered the York Road Starbucks because he matched the description of the man that robbed the coffee shop on Jan. 6.

Aseltine said that Loyola University does not provide the descriptions of suspects and what information does get released must meet standards so that people aren’t indirectly harmed.

“It’s not about intent, it’s about impact,” she said.

Freshman Brittney Boone, however, said that the University should keep the suspect descriptions even if they are broad.

“I think they should give the description, especially if there is something unique about the person but I can see why some people get offended with the vague description,” she said. “I’d just like to know what’s going on.”

Suspect descriptions will still be included in the text alerts to immediately warn people while the suspect is in the area. Photos and videos of suspects will still be sent in email alerts.

Weather condition, campus closings and public safety alerts will also no longer be posted on Towson’s Facebook page but posted on the TUPD Facebook page instead.

Students, faculty and staff can change the settings of their text alerts through their e2campus text alert account online.

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