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RUPD chief of police, students discuss U. emergency alert system in light of recent shooting

The Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) will consider more timely and robust notifications in the future, said the chief of University police. – Photo by The Daily Targum

With the recent shooting taking place near the College Avenue campus on Nov. 1, there have been safety concerns regarding the efficiency of the University’s emergency alert system, which did not alert Rutgers community members about the incident until nearly 14 hours after.

Kenneth Cop, chief of University police and executive director of public safety, and several students discussed the incident as well as shared their thoughts on the University’s crime alert system and its efficiency. 

The shooting took place in the area of Easton Avenue and Condict Street, and only a traffic advisory was initially issued to alert the community after it occurred, according to a University-wide email. This sparked some community members to voice concerns for their safety, given that a large number of students live in off-campus housing around this vicinity.

Cop said the incident did not require an alert given the immediate apprehension of the suspect by the New Brunswick Police Department. He explained that crime alerts are typically sent out to community members as soon as it becomes practical, being that there is a threat to the University. 

“There was no ongoing, nor imminent threat, but officers remained on scene for investigative purposes, so we wanted to alert the community about potential traffic delays in the area as the rush hour approached,” he said. “However, given the severity of the crime as well as the impact it can have on the Rutgers community, we will consider more timely and robust notifications in the future.”

From when the crime was first called into the police department, the suspect had already been in custody for approximately 4 minutes, and the area of the shooting was already being responded to by police from multiple agencies, Cop said.

In regard to students who feel their safety is put at risk in terms of the efficiency of the crime alert system, he said the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD) has the safety of students as their highest priority. He also said the RUPD consistently reviews the circumstances related to the local crimes with their policies and procedures concerning the notification system to keep the community informed. 

Nathan Gotz, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, said that so far in his time at Rutgers, he believes the University’s emergency alert system has seemed efficient as alerts are sent out when needed, and he has never run into any issues. Though, he has noticed that they are not always sent out right away.

Regarding the recent shooting, Gotz said he can understand why the crime alert may not have been sent out immediately if the police felt they had a handle on the occurrence.

“(It is) a little concerning because anybody could have been walking in the area,” he said “But I can see why they wouldn't have sent out the message if they thought everything was under control, and they didn't see a possibility of another shooting.”

Gotz said that ultimately, he feels that the quicker that crime alerts are sent out, the safer everybody in the campus community is. Other than sending out alerts quicker, he said more of a police presence around campus could be an action that the University takes toward improving safety measures.

Jake Garbar, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said that he feels the alert system generally is not very efficient in conveying the information of crimes that occur because they often are delayed in their communication. Due to that time difference, he said he feels it is not prompt enough to actually warn people in a timely manner.

“Especially because these shootings happen in such close proximity to campus and to where so many students live ... when something like that occurs, even if it's late at night, I feel like everyone should be notified promptly within probably 20 minutes, just so people are aware to steer clear of the area,” he said. “Because, obviously, if they inform students 14 hours after it happens, people aren't aware of what's going on at the time, so I don't think that's super effective.”

Garbar said he feels like his own personal safety could be at risk if he was out and was not aware that something dangerous like a shooting was occurring. He said that if he or any other student happened to pass through or already be in an area of a crime, they are put at risk of possibly becoming involved in the incident.

Garbar said the University’s alert system is ultimately good in the sense that students can receive emails and texts, but he thinks that just being more direct about all information relating to crimes in general, such as location and time, could definitely help with safety for the campus community.

“Sometimes we do get notifications that say something occurred, but you don't know where it is all the time or what's going on,” he said. “So being more open about all the information I think could definitely help.”

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