By Molly Ashline, Staff Writer
Published in print Apr. 22, 2015
Many crimes that happen in or around UNC-Greensboro’s campus are packaged into email alerts that are sent out to students, faculty and staff.
Last week, a series of these emails caused community backlash against the UNC-Greensboro police department.
These emails included descriptions of suspects that many saw as stereotypical and racially profiling.
“It goes back to racial stereotypes and what we already have ingrained in our minds about what a black male looks like…just these different categories that exist, so we can go back to the root of that and why that would be the first thing that comes up to your mind to remember,” said Domonique Edwards about the description of the suspect.
While this reaction was large enough to cause an impromptu forum Wednesday night with an audience of over 100 in attendance, other crime-related emails have been causing quieter, but consistent complaints.
“It seems like every time I send a notice, I alienate the population of the campus,” said Major Paul Lester of the UNCG police department in an interview with the Carolinian.
Both types of emails pose an interesting question to crime on campus as a whole: How are people becoming informed about it, and do they trust the system that is informing them?
While Lester estimated that the UNCG police receive an average of 10,000 calls per year, he explained that most of these calls are service calls, such as students getting locked out of their cars.
Looking at the UNCG police’s crime statistics on their websites gives one a better idea of what types of crimes are being committed.
In 2013, drug and alcohol violations made up the majority of all crimes committed on campus.
Aside from that, and possibly more disturbingly, in 2013, there were three hate crimes on campus and 13 sexual abuse charges, not including rapes and forcible fondling.
The latter of these is what is mentioned in the emails, under provision of the Clery Act, which is a law that requires the publication of such incidents on college campuses.
Often the problem that people find with these emails is that few people know what “forcible fondling” means.
“There’s different kinds of sexual assault. Fondling is…the touching of…any private part,” explained Lester.
While UNCG police are required by law to send emails when those events occur, they were not required to send an email on Sunday.
“Sometimes we go beyond, and we’ll put things out just to increase awareness, because we think if we increase awareness, we increase safety,” said Lester.
Wording seems to be the general problem many have with the emails the UNCG Police distribute.
“A lot of the alerts that we get…are
very dehumanizing of the situation and it lowers the seriousness of the situation,” said one audience member.
But the police see the alerts differently.
“We really do not mean for these warnings to be offensive. We intend for these warnings to make you safe,” said Lester at the forum.
That dialogue may represent a greater issue of trust and communication between police and students.
Some people at the forum were also concerned about the defensiveness of police officers.
“It’s the way I feel when you guys [police] come around. If I constantly see you on the news…I feel like a foreigner in another country when a US militant come in his presence and as long as that’s going on, I’m not going to feel comfortable with you,” said an NC A&T student who attended the forum.
Lester admitted that this attitude is a common problem among police that is being addressed.
“You’re not a soldier conquering an enemy. You’re actually a member of a community, protecting a society. That’s kind of a change of mindset both for the community and the police,” he said.
Another issue with trust of police is reporting sexual assault crimes. A statistic used by the Department of Justice to estimate the number of people who are sexually assaulted on college campuses as 1 in 5.
This estimate does not match the statistics cited earlier.
Lester responded to this by saying, “I think sometimes they [victims] just want it to be over. They don’t want to go through the process. It’s not a pleasant experience to have to be questioned or relive the experience.”
But Lester hopes people will trust the UNCG police with these matters.
“Our sole purpose for being here is to protect students,” Lester affirmed later.
Overall, the community and the police appear to be trying to find solutions to the disjunction between how police pursue crime and how the community is informed about it through a number of programs, but some are still skeptical about possible solutions.
“I’ve been to thousands of these forums, and the conversation is still the same,” said Frances Lundy, an audience member and police officer of twenty years who attended Wednesday’s forum.
Categories: molly ashline, News
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