At UNM, there is a communication time delay regarding safety advisories between the University and the campus community.
The delay — the amount of time from when an incident occurs until a LoboAlerts is distributed — exposes potential dangers on or around campus that are cause for concern for some in the campus community.
LoboAlerts is the means of communication that lets the campus community know, via text message and email, when there is a safety issue on campus, typically related to a reported criminal act.
“I’m frustrated with the lack of time the University takes to tell us about something serious happening on campus,” UNM freshman Elijah Barela said. “It’s confusing how something will happen at 10 a.m. and we wouldn’t get (notified) until 2 p.m. What if I was there?”
The time frame referred to by Barela was in regards to a LoboAlert sent out to the campus community warning of an individual who threatened a student with a gun at the intersection of Central Avenue and Yale Boulevard on the morning of Feb. 8.
Justin Kerstetter holds out his cell phone displaying a LoboAlerts message on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017 on the UNM Main Campus. It is a federal mandate that UNMPD must provide students with information of dangerous situations that may unfold on campus. UNMPD sends out LoboAlerts when urgent, need-to-know situations around the University take place.
“Student approached by suspect who asked if he wanted to purchase in internet router from a blue box the suspect was carrying, the student refused and the suspect pointed a gun at the student,” the LoboAlerts stated. “There was no robbery and the suspect was last seen walking westbound on Central.”
The LoboAlerts specified that the incident occurred at 10:03 a.m. and, as Barela said, the alert was not sent out to the campus community until 2 p.m.
When asked what caused this delay of information, UNM Emergency Manager Byron Piatt said the delay was caused by the crime not being reported in a timely manner.
This is a common cause for delays in LoboAlerts, he said, as well as the police needing time to follow their own procedure before the alert is sent out.
Piatt said the LoboAlerts team is abiding by the federal Clery Act requiring the University to alert the campus community, and he believes UNM’s goal for LoboAlerts to keep the campus community aware is being met.
The issue is that UNM needs to send out a LoboAlerts as soon as pertinent information is available, he said, and if something is not reported within a timely basis the information still has to be sent — even if it is hours, days or weeks after the incident.
The Clery Act requires the University to release information when specific types of crimes have been committed within the campus community, and reported to a campus safety authority or police department.
The specific crimes must “pose a concern or threat to the students or campus community,” but the Clery Act does not have a rule stating that alerts have to be sent out in a timely manner.
“Although there is no required format for a timely warning, the warning must be reasonably likely to reach the entire campus community. Therefore, timely warnings must be issued in a manner that gets the word out quickly and effectively community wide,” according to a passage in the United States Department of Education’s Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. “Timely warnings may not be issued in a manner or posted in a location that requires the campus community to make requests for them or to search for them. The responsibility for getting the warning out rests solely with the institution.”
UNMPD Lieutenant Tim Stump said there isn’t anything students can personally do to help the timeliness of LoboAlerts, but he urged that students pay attention to the alerts and be aware of their surroundings, as well as report anything suspicious to UNMPD immediately.
“The simple message is: If you see something, say something. If something affects your safety, make sure you report it to a proper authority as quickly as possible,” Stump said. “We cannot relay that information with the rest of the community until it gets reported.”
Denicia Aragon is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @deniciaaragon98.