Public Safety Explains Campus Alert System


Photo Courtesy of Ram Archives

Public Safety follows protocols set by the Clery Act to alert students of on and off campus crime.

On Thursday, Oct. 24, an “unauthorized individual” entered Campbell Hall behind a group of students at 7:18 p.m., according to an email sent by Public Safety. This individual left the building at 7:50 p.m. after being confronted by a student. The individual fled campus shortly after that.

Public Safety did not notify the campus community about this event until Thursday, Oct. 31, when it sent out a Public Safety alert at 4:58 p.m. John Carroll, associate vice president of Fordham Public Safety, said when the incident was reported to them on Oct. 24, it was reported as a trespassing incident.

Carroll said when Public Safety heard of the incident, it was unsure about who the individual was and the primary focus was identifying the trespasser.

“It wasn’t that it went unnoticed,” said Robert Fitzer, director of Rose Hill Public Safety. “We may have not alerted the community because it didn’t rise to our criteria. It wasn’t taken lightly, it was thoroughly investigated, a lot of work went into it.”

Public Safety eventually found out that the “unauthorized individual” came in through the vehicle gate and made a left turn, but they didn’t see him because a car passed at the same time, blocking him from view, said Carroll.

Public Safety called the NYPD right away, but didn’t put out an alert because it was a trespass as opposed to a crime. Trespassing is not considered a crime, it is considered a violation, and thus it was not deemed appropriate for an alert.

“There’s certain crimes that we’re mandated to put an alert out on, and trespass would not be one of those crimes,” said Fitzer.

There are certain crimes that Public Safety is required to send alerts out about. These crimes are defined by the Clery Act, a law that aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics. Not every crime is included in this, since it has to be a violent crime, according to  Fitzer.

Geography also plays into what Public Safety is required to alert the campus about. It is required to report crime on campus and on the adjoining streets to the campus, said Carroll.

Public Safety sends alerts for incidents that occur outside that radius though. For example, Public Safety sent an alert on Monday, Nov. 4, at 11:08 p.m. detailing an assault and robbery on East 189th Street between Bathgate and Washington Avenues. This location is outside the area it is required to report about.

“We chose to extend it because we feel we have a duty to our students to alert them of situations that are going on in the neighborhood because as you know we have four houses off campus as well as probably an additional 1,000 students that live in the Belmont community,” said Fitzer. “So that’s why we choose to extend it. So we’re going actually above and beyond the requirements.”

Carroll said Public Safety usually send an alert in those instances if a crime was committed and there was no apprehension made of that individual, because he or she may present as a danger to Fordham students.

According to Carroll, Public Safety alerts students about what is applicable, but they do not want to overuse the alert system might, because students might ignore it.

“Alerts are something that we want to save for the more important things,” said Carroll. “We’ve debated this subject now for years. We’ve never not notified. I don’t want to put out too much white noise.”

It refrains from sending an alert if a crime occurs and the NYPD asks Public Safety to forgo an announcement.

“We don’t want it to impede the investigation,” said Fitzer. “If the police ask us don’t send it out at this particular time because it may impede our investigation, there could be a delay in that.”

Carroll said there’s a normal delay with the work Public Safety is doing, but it usually sends messages out within a few hours.

If there is ever a situation on campus that presents immediate, ongoing danger, Public Safety will send an alert through text, such as the on campus pursuit that occurred last semester, said Carroll.

In regards to apps such as Wildfire, which allow private citizens to send alerts about emergencies, Carroll said it is just a social media platform.

“I don’t think it’s that helpful,” said Carroll. “And I think it would cause a lot of unnecessary concerns. You can be 100% certain that if you are in any danger, we would notify you immediately and we have all sorts of mechanisms to do that.”

The app Citizen is similar, but is New York City-based. Carroll reiterated, that it is not guaranteed accurate information.

“They create a sense of fear that may not be appropriate,” said Carroll. “I think when you tell the truth and deal with facts rather than rumor, you’re a lot better off. We’re not gonna ever deal in rumor.”

In regards to the unauthorized person incident, Carroll said a lot of people trespass onto Fordham’s campus and Public Safety catches trespassers all the time, but it is just a violation rather than a crime. He said Public Safety is not going to send out alerts on trespassers because it is not required by its statutes to do that.

“But we also recognize that there is some human factor behind this which is the concern of our students,” said Carroll. “So when I was getting the feedback, that there was that concern, I put it out.”