ForeWarn must be used sparingly

In the last week and a half, students have been alerted to dangers near campus more than many seniors have been in their entire college careers.

On Nov. 10, the ForeWarn system was used for police reasons for the first time, when a car chase that began north of Bradley ended on campus.

Then, on Tuesday, students received an e-mail saying two inmates from the Peoria County Jail had escaped in a way that could have been torn from a Hollywood script.

The Office of the President sent an e-mail to the campus community about 2 p.m., which was 7 hours after the inmates were discovered missing.

But many students knew about the jailbreak long before the e-mail arrived.

Either hearing it from other students or local news outlets, word had spread. The problem is that the word was distorted as it moved down the grape vine, spawning unnecessary panic.

For some reason, there were students who saw it appropriate to send mass texts out warning students of a rapist on campus.

It’s actions like that which send people flying into unnecessary panic.

It was a scary situation, but we would have hoped to see students acting more their age.

Some argue that a ForeWarn text should have been sent, and while that may have quelled the panic-inducing texts, it could also have caused panic of its own.

University administrators said they considered sending a text but decided against it because there was no real indication the escapees were near campus.

That was the right call.

ForeWarn is a powerful tool, and we understand why some students feel it should have been used on Tuesday.

But because it is such a powerful tool, the school has to be careful not to cry wolf.

After an alleged armed robber who was believed to have already harmed one person crashed his car onto campus, the university police deemed a text necessary.

And it was.

A student reported seeing a man running through campus. While no one was hurt, and the man was probably running as fast as he could to get away from here, there was a possibility of something terrible happening.

Those are the situations in which ForeWarn needs to be activated. The text messaging systems needs to be used sparingly.

Think about this: If the university were to send out a text message every time a violent crime occurred within a 5-mile radius, we’d be getting several of them each day. Peoria isn’t exactly a crime haven, but, like any city, things happen.

So even though two potentially dangerous men escaped the jail, a text really wasn’t needed.

Police had no reason to suspect the men were on or even near campus, and the university sent out an e-mail warning students of the jail break and urging them to be careful. What more could be expected?

ForeWarn needs to be reserved for those hopefully rare occurrences when there is a real possibility of imminent danger on or very near campus.

So for everything else, students need to inform themselves.

At some point, we’ll all be out in the real world and won’t have Bradley there to tell us when there’s a problem.

Just taking a little bit of distorted information doesn’t count.