Federal law states that higher education institutions must have five specific categories of information in their mandated daily crime logs, which provide campus crime data to students.
The University of New Mexico has two of the five specified categories.
The Clery Act, signed in 1990, requires higher education institutions that receive federal funding to publish an annual security report, provide timely notifications when crimes threaten the campus community and maintain a daily crime log. UNM’s LoboAlert system and daily crime log fall under its Clery Act Compliance Policy.
The act says the log must include the nature, date, time, general location and whether the case is open or closed for all crimes reported to campus police or security.
“The Clery Act requires that (the crime log) provides, in plain language, a description of an incident that happened or almost happened that was reported, (and) whether we can prove it or not as well as locations in plain language,” Clery coordinator Adrienne Helms said.
Of the required categories, UNM’s daily crime log features only the nature and date. The timestamp has been 00:00:00 on every incident for at least a year.
UNM Police Department is in charge of updating the crime log, according to Helms and UNMPD Lieutenant Larry Bitsoih. The crime log contains any incidents that take place within UNMPD jurisdiction, even if they do not fit the list of federally defined Clery crimes, Helms said.
On Sept. 15, 2023, students received alerts of a stabbing near the UNM Bookstore. Upon review of the crimes logged for Sept. 15 — when students received LoboAlerts of the incident— none were listed as assaults, the proper nature of the crime. Only one listing could have described the incident, labeled as: “informational.” The Clery Act states daily crime logs must be easily understood.
“I know that our system is outdated. We did have a meeting about that and they’re in the process of updating that. And I see (the updates) definitely by next school year,” Bitsoih said.
UNMPD sometimes lists the nature of a crime as “information” or “informational.” Bitsoih and Helms defined this description differently.
“It’s probably not a crime, but we call it an information report,” Bitsoih said. “It might be something that’s close to a (Clery crime) but it doesn’t fit the state statute. Or it could be simply someone reporting.”
Helms explained “information(al)” on the daily crime log is pulled from police reports; officers will often write “informational” in the “offense” space on police reports to indicate people have to read the narrative part of the report for more details.
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The Clery Act also outlines a requirement for institutions to issue emergency notifications and timely warnings to the campus community.
Emergency notifications, or LoboAlerts at UNM, must be issued upon confirmation of a dangerous situation occurring on campus that poses an immediate threat to safety, according to Clery Center Senior Director of Programs Laura Egan.
Timely warnings, or Lobo Advisories at UNM, are required for all Clery Act crimes that are reported on or near campus and are considered by the institution to represent a continuing threat, Egan said.
LoboAlerts and Lobo Advisories are issued when a crime is reported, whether or not it is proven, Helms said.
“If somebody said there’s an active shooter in a building, we’re not going to ignore it. But if there are five people calling in, that’s even more confirmation,” Helms said.
On Dec. 1, 2022, UNMPD received multiple reports of an active shooter inside Zimmerman Library on campus. UNMPD cleared the scene and the situation turned out to be a false alarm.
Neither a LoboAlert nor a Lobo Advisory was issued to the campus community during or after the situation. There is no record of an alert or advisory for the situation on X, Facebook or UNM’s Newsroom.
“My understanding is that there was (an alert issued), so I don’t know if you didn’t receive it,” Bitsoih said.
The calls that UNMPD received during the incident were from indirect parties outside the building who didn’t see the incident happen, Helms said. Because there weren’t direct reports from people in the building, this may have caused doubts in issuing an alert, Helms said.
Lieutenant Bitsoih said he wasn’t on call at the time. Because the incident occurred outside of normal business hours, he said a lack of on-duty personnel may have caused a delay in issuing the alert.
Although the alerts are typically issued as text messages, Helms said the people in the building were alerted verbally to shelter in place.
“The alerts can take the form of word of mouth or an officer being posted outside the building,” Helms said.
When asked about the operation of LoboAlerts and the daily crime log, Helms and Byron Piatt – Emergency Manager at UNM – referenced each other or UNMPD as the authorities with the most knowledge.
Bitsoih said Lieutenant Timothy Stump manages the crime log; Stump referred the Daily Lobo to Bitsoih when contacted.
“Our police department is actually the one that sends out all of our LoboAlerts,” Piatt said. “It’s the entire police command staff– all lieutenants Stump, Guevara, Bitsoih (and) the commanders Madrid and Gonzalez as well as Deputy Chief Chester.”
Chester referred the Daily Lobo to Piatt.
According to Helms, the crime log was missing data columns when she came to her position in Feb. of 2022. Updating it is a big concern of hers, she said.
“We have gotten a lot of positive feedback over the last several months based on certain improvements we’ve made,” Helms said. “But to me, it’s still not enough. I think as a University we can do a lot better, and we will.”
Lauren Lifke is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @lauren_lifke
Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @llilyalexander
Lauren Lifke is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo.
Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted on Twitter @llilyalexander