DISSENT: DPS Alert Provides Necessary, Helpful Information
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 02:02
The Department of Public Safety’s Saturday email concerning the two men suspected of targeting the Georgetown community for burglary should not be considered a problematic excess of unhelpful information as today’s editorial “Public Disservice Alert” argues but rather a routine dissemination of information regarding public safety.
Recent events at Georgetown have seen a spike in theft and burglaries on and around campus. Recommendations to lock doors and not leave items unattended, while valid, have created so much redundant noise that many students simply tune them out. In contrast, Saturday’s email, which contained information about the specific items — laptops, iPads and cash — targeted and the specific suspects — a 5-foot-10, dark-skinned black male weighing about 165 lbs. and a 140 lb. dark-skinned black male between 5-feet-10 and 6-feet with dreadlocks — provided students with a more tangible grasp of the current problem. Rather than issue general and repetitive safety awareness, the email made the threat specific. While other burglaries are always a possibility, the email was designed to pass on additional information DPS had received about an incident that warranted further caution.
The description was not unusually vague or ambiguous. That the suspects happen to be of heights and weights that could be considered average should not discourage DPS from providing the information to the public. No Georgetown student, after reading Saturday’s email, will automatically assume any individual fitting that description to be a thief. But in a questionable situation, more information can lead to increased alertness or protection and prevent future threats. Furthermore, when DPS provides a detailed, if incomplete, description of a suspect to the Georgetown community, it sends a message of active monitoring of the case. This can serve as a warning signal and a possible deterrent to future crimes.
Discretion is important when assuming that individuals matching certain descriptions are suspicious. But the responsibility for discretion lies with individuals, not the Department of Public Safety. Saturday’s email contained no language to imply bias and did include details specific enough to assist in preventing future thefts. To best serve the community, DPS provided a standard police description of the suspects. Chastising DPS is not only unfair, but it also risks decreased police communication and higher future burglary rates.
Crime is never a clear-cut issue, and our community benefits from the many systems in place to alert students to burglaries and other incidents. If the mantra “knowledge is power” still holds true, there is no reason DPS should be criticized for including relevant information in its reports.
Alyssa Huberts is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. T.M. Gibbons-Neff is a sophomore in the College. They are both members of The Hoya's Editorial Board.