Editorial: Lag in safety notification is unacceptable

It was at 9:35 p.m. on a Monday, 55 degrees and clear skies. It was on Fredonia Avenue, amid the residences of hundreds of Bradley students. It was within walking distance of a blue emergency light pole, and the victim had a cell phone. Yet, she was robbed at gunpoint just steps away from campus.

The victims fled, and although one was caught within two hours, the remaining suspect in possession of the handgun was not found until approximately 42 hours later.

Of course, this came as a total shock to the campus community. We boast on our admissions tours that we’re safe because we have our very own police department and that the only real issue is whatever lies “down the hill,” but this incident proved otherwise.

Beyond the armed robbery, the simple action of sending students a Safety Alert earned severe criticism.

Even if protocol for sending a foreWarn text message didn’t include armed robberies on Fredonia Avenue, even if not all of the details were available yet for a comprehensive report, and even if the fear of “student panic” came to administrators’ minds when they chose not to send a more immediate notification, there is absolutely no excuse for not informing students that a man with a gun was at-large around the areas of Fredonia and Bradley Avenues sooner than one hour and 39 minutes after the initial incident.

Surely it was a very chaotic time, and we have no doubt that police efforts were focused on locating and arresting the suspects. For that, we are thankful to our police officers for being so dedicated and for eventually finding and arresting both suspects.

However, on that night, part of the equation of protecting the campus community should have been educating us on the situation and advising us to take safety precautions or to stay at our current locations until further notice.

One tweet, one Facebook post, or even an email that said, “Police activity in the 1800 block of Bradley Avenue; stay indoors. More details to follow,” would have sufficed.

When students were not informed of the armed robbery, and we continued walking our dogs, leaving the library or heading home from Markin by ourselves, we were at risk. And the worst part about it was that social media had to be the bearer of bad news, not our police department or our university.

We know the university does not take our safety lightly, and we understand that sometimes an email notification gets lost in the mix when you’re in physical pursuit of suspects, but it should not take an armed robbery and a petition to see the timeliness of student safety notifications needs to be reviewed.

This night could have been so much worse than it was, but we are thankful the victim was unharmed, her property was returned, and at least one suspect was captured that night.

However, if there is ever a “next time,” notifying the student body should be completed with a more timely execution. Don’t leave us to sort through retweets, posts or Yik Yak upvotes for truth.

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