Why GV safety alerts aren't enough for student safety

By Lanthorn Editorial Board | 11/5/18 9:37am

editorial
GV Lanthorn Editorial

This past weekend, the Grand Valley Police Department Safety Alert system notified students of a sexual assault that occurred at an off campus apartment near Grand Valley's Allendale campus. These alerts help inform the GV community of some of the sexual assaults that occur near campus, but fail to report on all reported instances of assault. In fact, GVPD only issues safety alerts for cases of sexual assault where there may be a threat to the community. In instances where perpetrators are identified or in police custody, alerts are usually not issued. 

Is this giving a false representation of the number of sexual assaults near GVSU? Students may fall into the belief that the low number of alerts is conducive to a low number of sexual assaults. While these alerts help keep the community informed on some assaults, students are missing out on vital information that could impact their homes and their lives. 

In the past, the GVSU safety alert system has brought awareness to sexual violence near GVSU and inspired Student Senate to form a sexual assault awareness committee. This committee has worked to understand sexual assault's impact on victims and the community and facilitated education materials and discussion settings to maintain a dialogue on sexual violence prevention. 

“(The committee) was created in response to a higher number of sexual assault alerts from campus security last year," said Student Senate President Rachel Jenkin at a recent Grand Valley panel on sexual assault awareness. 

These alerts have brought more awareness to the topic of sexual assault at GVSU, but only scratch the surface of assaults occurring near Allendale campus. Since the beginning of the school year, there has been at least one reported sexual assault each week. This means of the few safety alerts students have received this year, almost 11 reported assaults were not communicated to the community. While students may not want to be notified of all crime taking place off campus, the limited amount of sexual assault alerts students do receive may be giving them a false sense of security.

The truth is it can be difficult for students to remain aware of the assaults and crime that is taking place near them, especially any details in the reports. While the alert system can give some insight into potential safety risks, these alerts are only sent out if the crime meets certain requirements. Even when assaults and crime take place at off-campus apartments, students remain in the dark on information pertaining to their location.

Last June, a shooting occurred in Copper Beech Apartments near the Allendale campus where two individuals were shot. According to a previous resident, Copper Beech Apartments never informed residents of the shooting, leaving many to rely on local news for information.

This lack of communication has put the work on students to find out what is going on, which isn't an easy task. GVPD updates their weekly incident log on their website which includes the incident, address and date. However, these incident reports only provide the basic information and may leave out details that could concern students. 

Grand Valley students have been left to their own devices to investigate what is going on where they live and where they attend school. While the safety alert system does notify the community of some reported assaults, it may be giving the impression that less assaults are occurring than the actual number of reports. The lack of communication and transparency from off campus apartments can also keep students from hearing about assaults that may have occurred right next door. Grand Valley's commitment to student safety needs to be facilitated through communication, so students can remain aware of any safety precautions they should be taking.

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