On Tuesday, The Hoya released the results of an investigation that uncovered 65 criminal incidents that Georgetown’s Department of Public Safety failed to report in Public Safety Announcements. According to The Hoya’s report, these unreported incidents included 70 percent of all assaults during the 29 months covered by the investigation, as well as 40 percent of burglaries and 40 percent of sexual assaults.

This failure to inform students of serious crime was negligent. DPS must take steps immediately to end this troubling pattern and make our community safer.

DPS Crime Prevention Coordinator Sgt. Joseph Smith explained the decision to withhold some incidents from the campus community by noting that there are two criteria for determining whether a crime is to be reported by PSA: First, whether the crime is a “serious incident,” and second, whether it constitutes a “threat to the community.” Additionally, some cases of sexual assaults are not reported out of concern for the confidentiality of the victims.

It is clear from the statistics, however, that DPS has not fully embraced the spirit of the Clery Act, which compels security authorities at colleges that receive federal financial aid to maintain public crime logs and issue timely warnings of threats. (DPS left out criminal incidents that posed legitimate threats, including a bomb threat, a case of arson and an armed robbery.) Students rely on the PSAs for safety updates; in light of the report, however, it seems that DPS has not given students an accurate picture of the extent of the criminal activity in and around Georgetown.

This is not just carelessness – this is potentially dangerous. The Clery Act was passed four years after the murder of Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Clery; it was later found that 38 undisclosed, violent on-campus crimes had occurred at Lehigh in the previous three years. Students must be provided with up-to-date knowledge of the state of campus security in order to adequately protect themselves.

Even if a crime is isolated or does not present a direct threat to students, it still has an impact on the community. The case of a Georgetown student assaulting his girlfriend – a hypothetical situation mentioned by DPS Associate Director Doris Bey in an interview with The Hoya – may seem irrelevant to other students and faculty, but it is still a deplorable act of violence; acknowledging the incident in a public forum can help prevent other such assaults. DPS is obligated to protect the identities of the victim and the involved parties, but that does not mean they should neglect to report incidents altogether. In the future, DPS should issue PSAs for all major criminal incidents and release compilations of minor incidents at regular intervals.

Officials must also recognize the limitations of PSAs – as frequent and public as they may be, PSAs only present the details of single cases at a time. To help students make better decisions about their safety, DPS should do more than just inform students of recent crimes – it could create an online crime map for Georgetown, for instance. Crime maps are searchable online maps that display the location and time of all criminal incidents within a searchable area. Students can search specifically for assaults or sexual offenses and identify pockets where, for example, assaults frequently take place.

First, though, DPS must do what it should have been doing all along – reporting all incidences of crime, in PSAs and in regular compilations of minor incidents. DPS will never eliminate crime at Georgetown, but only by taking the initiative in keeping students informed and equipping them with the tools to protect themselves will it fulfill its mission.

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