If you have been either a student or faculty member at the University of New Mexico long enough, there is no doubt that you have received more than a fair share of LoboAlerts. Whether it concerns groping, robbery, assault or a myriad of other issues that require notification, LoboAlerts provide the information needed to keep the UNM campus safe and aware.
But how does this system actually function? What is the process from the time an incident occurs to the moment students and faculty receive the text?
There are those who feel the timeliness of alerts could be improved. The Daily Lobo recently received a letter to the editor, in which UNM staff member Brian Vineyard lamented about how LoboAlerts on certain crimes, specifically a robbery that occurred at Golden Pride, were received hours after the event took place. He also said he wondered why he received alerts by email faster than he did by text.
“Something really needs to be done about the timeliness of (LoboAlerts), or lack thereof,” Vineyard wrote.
There are many factors that can affect the time it takes to send an alert to the public, making each instance completely unique to all those that preceded it.
The process of issuing a LoboAlert first begins when police dispatch sends an officer to the scene of the reported crime. From there, the officer will make a determination as to whether or not a LoboAlert is required, said Lt. Tim Stump of the University of New Mexico Police Department.
“Every call is different, (therefore) every call is assessed differently,” Stump said.
One major factor officers must consider is the nature of the crime committed and if the suspect involved still poses a potential risk to those on campus. UNMPD currently keeps a list of several crimes that require an alert, such as robbery, aggravated assault or hate crimes, he said.
However, Stump made it clear that this list does not represent the totality of crimes that can qualify for a LoboAlert.
“If a crime occurs that’s not on the list that we feel puts the campus in imminent danger, then we’ll send out an alert,” he said.
Potential delays can also be caused due to a lack of concrete information. Once an officer obtains all the necessary information, however long that takes, then an alert can be sent out, he said.
Once the incident is reported, UNMPD upper command will send out the alert, which can be received by text, email or on Twitter.
As for why someone might receive the alert on one platform faster than another, UNM Emergency Manager Byron Piatt said it could relate to issues with the user’s cell phone, such as a low battery that causes the phone to receive texts at a slower rate.
Piatt also said that whether or not a suspect’s ethnicity is included in an alert depends entirely upon if the victim disclosed that information in the police report.
The quality of the LoboAlert system is maintained through tests made in conjunction with the campus’ warning siren. This test takes place three times a year, Piatt said.
As for any possible changes to the system, both Piatt and Stump said they were satisfied with the current format, citing examples of gropers and robbers that have been arrested as a result of the alerts.
“Because students are aware…we’ve been able to apprehend suspects,” Stump said. “We believe it meets the necessity of getting the alerts out.”
So, for now, the LoboAlert system will remain intact, ready to alert the UNM population when need be — but hopefully not too often.
Kyle Land is a news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by Twitter @kyleoftheland.