Following the incident of a false report of a stabbing on campus, UNCG Police are determined to reshape the criteria of emergency messages in order to provide clearer reports to students and staff.
On Feb. 8, a UNCG alert was send out that reported an “assault on [a] female in the Graham building.” Following the vague message, a follow up alert was sent on that gave more specifics that a stabbing had taken place on the second floor of the Graham building only to be later followed by another alert that revealed “the initial report of a stabbing at the Graham Building was not accurate.”
The messages created a buzz around campus that left students wondering how a false report like this could be filed.
Due to the ongoing investigation, more information on the Graham case can not be shared, but Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam sent out a personal response to the UNCG community to reassure the campus that the incident was false and that “the individual reporting this event, who is a student, will be charged with filing a false police report, disorderly conduct, bringing a weapon to campus and obstruction.”
UNCG Police Chief Paul Lester commended Gilliam on a well stated email and agreed with his two main points: prioritizing the safety of the community and always starting by believing the reports they receive.
“Our priority is going to be the safety of the community first and foremost. And secondly, we are always going to begin by believing when people report things to us. When we get reports, the events are rapidly evolving and many times what is initially reported changes because there is always more to find out. There’s always going to be more information that we didn’t have at the time. It’s not as easy as people might think to be able to compile information and put it out in a quick and accurate manner when you only get bits and pieces sporadically,” said Lester.
A challenge the police station goes through is how to deal with receiving reports while simultaneously finding out more information that contradicts the report. In situations like these, the police try to give the most accurate information so the community can be informed and protected. The responsibility of writing emergency messages falls upon a single person, but the messages have to be authorized by the supervisor.
“As much as we would love to involve others and collaborate to create the best message to send out to campus, there just isn’t time. The event would be over and the message would be delayed. We have to write the best message we can, as accurately as we can and send it quickly,” said Lester.
The UNCG Police have been working to revamp the process after hearing feedback following the last alert. They are revisioning the template to include instructions for people who are already in the area, instead of the original messages that solely instruct individuals to stay out of the area. The main point Lester conveyed is that he doesn’t believe the messages are taken as seriously as they need to be.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t responding to the instructions given. That’s concerning for me because they are putting themselves at risk and they are making it harder for us to provide protection and safety,” said Lester.
The UNCG Police have begun to collaborate with University Communications in order to make the messages clearer and to improve their template for future emergency alerts to best inform the students and staff on campus.