Public safety officials overhaul campus notifications

URBANA – The University of Illinois Police Department has overhauled the way it communicates with the campus community about serious crime and other public safety issues in an effort to make emailed safety notices a more helpful resource.

The department has replaced Crime Alerts with Campus Safety Notices, which will be issued to everyone with an email address by Massmail whenever a serious crime or series of crimes on campus and in university-owned or controlled properties poses a continuing risk to students and employees. Campus Safety Notices are meant to give everyone the information, tools and resources they need to stay safe.

“The new notices are specifically designed to give our campus community members more helpful information and more resources that can help keep them safer on campus,” said U. of I. Police Capt. Tony Brown. “An informed campus is a safer campus, and we always want to be proactive in telling our students and employees about public safety issues.”

The University of Illinois Police Department works closely with the Champaign and Urbana police departments and Champaign County Sheriff’s Office to make the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus one of the most highly-patrolled areas in the region. The University maintains a network of more than 1,000 security cameras on campus property to deter crime.

Still, Brown said, issues do come up, just like they do in any other city. Campus Safety Notices by themselves are not necessarily an indication that crime rates have increased or that a pattern of crime has emerged.

“We have a very safe campus. But we also have a large, public campus and the same kinds of societal issues that affect any other small city affect us,” Brown said. “The reality is that we’ll never have a campus which is entirely crime-free, so it’s important to take practical steps which can reduce our risk of being targeted by a criminal. That’s what these notices help people do.”

Campus Safety Notices are timely warnings mandated by the federal Clery Act and may be issued for crimes such as murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and arson. The decision to issue a Campus Safety Notice is considered on a case-by-case basis depending on when and where the incident occurred, when it was reported, whether it presents a continuing risk to the campus community and the amount of information known by the university police.

Campus Safety Notices are issued as quickly as possible based on when the crime was reported and how much information police receive from witnesses.

U. of I. Police also work with neighboring law enforcement agencies to go beyond federal reporting mandates. When an off-campus crime poses a threat to areas with high student populations, police will issue a Community Safety Notice to students and employees. Community Safety Notices are intentionally designed to look and feel like Campus Safety Notices and will contain much of the same resource information, but they are named separately for federal reporting purposes.

Both kinds of notice are distinct from Illini-Alert messages, which are emergency notifications distributed via email, text message, social media and Web alert system for incidents which present an imminent threat to the life, health, or safety of the general campus population – like fire, severe weather or active threats. These messages provide emergency information and instructions for personal protective actions.