In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007, universities abruptly sought out technology that allowed them to send emergency notifications via text message. Today, continuity planners at institutions across the United States are using students’ mobile addiction to their advantage; students receive text messages in emergency situations. However, there is more to an alert system than sending notifications to the masses. Crime reporting, from the masses to key communication centers, should also be easily accessible.
In 2014, the Justice Department of the United States released a troubling report on the occurrences of sexual assault and other violent incidents on the country’s college campuses. In their research, they found that only 20 percent of campus sexual assault victims report these crimes to law enforcement. The reasons for such a low rate of incident reporting are eye-opening.
The Justice Department estimates that one in ten victims consider the assault not important enough to report to law enforcement. Furthermore, one in five fear direct retaliation, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.
To further complicate the matter, certain victim’s advocacy groups say that victims of these crimes often prefer to have cases settled by their schools as opposed to the criminal justice system.
Clearly, the threat of reprisal—be it imagined or real—is a factor in the reporting of violent attacks or sexual assault on college campuses throughout the United States. And, even though the Clery Act has improved crime reporting practices on college campuses, most experts agree that the Act has done little to reduce those crimes overall.
Increase Crime Reporting
Being able to anonymously report suspicious behavior or actual incidents has been shown to be an effective tool to bridge the gaps in crime reporting by students and faculty. When used properly, mass notification technology that incorporates anonymous reporting can help campuses promote a safer environment and reduce violence where other measures, including the Clery Act, fall short.
In addition to a tool for anonymous reporting, it’s important for campuses to give victims options. Victim advocacy and the ability to adjudicate cases without involving law enforcement may encourage more students to come forward when violence or sexual assault have occurred. Likewise, faculty and other professionals can benefit from coaching as it relates to working with victims and ensuring their privacy is respected throughout any adjudication process.
Boost Campus Safety
The following steps would be beneficial for campuses to review in improving safety and the reporting of crime:
1. Incorporate tools and processes that allow students and faculty to anonymously report crimes and violent acts immediately.
2. Encourage dialogue with students about safety, personal responsibility and campus responsibility.
3. Institute faculty training for better assisting victims of sexual assault and other crimes.
4. Maintain the highest level of privacy protection for victims, as well as their friends and fellow students.
A solid safety plan is always essential in maintaining a secure learning and living environment for students. Annual review of practices and continual improvement are key factors in ensuring your campus safety protocols are working. However, incorporating a communication strategy that empowers both faculty and students to report incidents can be the most effective tool for reducing campus violence.
Regroup Mass Notification provides a multi-tiered solution for campuses and students that can help bridge the communication gaps and improve reporting. You can learn more about Regroup’s offerings at www.regroup.com.
About Regroup Mass Notification
Founded in the heart of Silicon Valley, Regroup Mass Notification is an emerging leader in critical and non-critical mass communication technology. With years of dedication, backed by experienced, hard- working professionals, we continually seek new ways to provide organizations with cutting-edge integrated mass communication solutions. Our team has assisted hundreds of organizations, ranging from universities and community college districts — to city governments, non-profits and corporations.
About the Author
Meet Pamela Hennessy.
Currently the Marketing Director at ReGroup Mass Notification, Pamela excels in creative marketing. Her specialty is creative marketing strategy but she also has a knack for copywriting.