The last time Ohio State students received an OSU Public Safety Notice was before Christmas, a period spanning longer than four months.
From Dec. 20 to last week, there have been more than 900 reports filed with University Police, according to the daily log found on the OSU Department of Public Safety website — none of which has prompted an alert.
University Police Chief Paul Denton said that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and could be a telling factor that the University Police have been containing and resolving incidents quickly and effectively.
“I like to cite good police work, giving credit to our officers for resolving incidents in a safe and effective manner,” Denton said.
Denton highlighted the work his officers did in finding and arresting Wayne Miller in a matter of hours after a crime was reported to police on the morning of April 16.
Miller, 32, was arrested by University Police April 16 and charged with kidnapping and aggravated robbery after he allegedly forced a female faculty member off campus. Miller has been indicted on charges including kidnapping and aggravated robbery and remains in jail in downtown Columbus until court proceedings are completed, according to Franklin County Municipal Court records.
Two other crimes, a shooting near Summit Street and 11th Avenue on April 6, and a fatal stabbing near Summit Street and Northwood Avenue on March 1, have also caused some members of the student population to demand a change in the current alert system.
Cheyenne Campbell, a third-year in biology, created a Change.org petition titled “Send safety notices about crimes that occur on- and off-campus,” just after the April 6 shooting.
“To protect students of The Ohio State University, I demand that all crimes within the surrounding campus area, on top of the university’s campus, should be reported to the students through a safety alert system,” the petition said.
Campbell told The Lantern she wants OSU to issue safety notifications for violent crimes in a more timely manner so that students are aware of potentially dangerous situations and can act accordingly.
“Students can make sure they’re in a safe place; they won’t be walking around alone, on or off campus, especially at night,” Campbell said. “They’ll just be more aware of their surroundings.”
She said she ramped up her efforts to share the petition through social media after the April 16 kidnapping attempt near Postle Hall, adding it was “completely unacceptable we didn’t receive a single alert about that.”
The petition has received more than 400 signatures in the past week.
Campbell added that she plans to present the petition to the university upon reaching her personal goal of 2,000 signatures.
Denton said he understands why students might be concerned when they see or hear of crime happening on campus and in the surrounding areas, but said not every crime warrants an alert.
Dan Hedman, an Administration and Planning spokesman, said in an email that the decision to issue an alert relies on four determining factors. First, it must be determined if a crime occurred. If it occurred, the location must be specified—if it happened on campus property or other reportable property under the Clery Act. Also taken into consideration is if the crime is a Clery-reportable crime, and lastly, if there is a serious or continuing threat to the campus community.
Finally, the decision to broadcast the alert is ultimately decided by Denton.
The Clery Act was designed to make college campus crime information readily available. As part of that act, colleges and universities are required to publish an annual security report that includes certain crime statistics on campus from the past three calendar years. Those statistics include crimes such as sex offenses, burglaries, murder, robberies and motor vehicle thefts.
“Information about criminal incidents is reviewed on a case-by-case basis by The Ohio State University Police Division upon receiving information,” Hedman said in an email.
Hedman said off-campus crimes are often reported to the Columbus Division of Police, as those cases fall under its jurisdiction.
“Public Safety Notices and Buckeye Alerts are the two main notification systems utilized. The university uses the definitions and requirements spelled out in the Clery Act as the basis for its policy and procedure for sending out Public Safety Notices, which is what helps define when and why notices are sent,” Hedman said in an email.
Denton said he would like to see OSU students and staff seek out information on their own by using Department of Public Safety tools like the online log.
The log shows police reports for specific times and dates, from the current day back to 1999. It doesn’t show complete police reports, but does include key information, including what happened, what time and where the crime occurred. Denton said everyone can benefit from using the resources available online.
“We look at safety as a partnership,” Denton said. “Becoming an informed and aware and engaged member of the community will only help to enhance safety for everyone.”
Yet some OSU students are not happy with the way things are being handled in regards to the alerts.
Hannah Vaughn, a second-year in health science, said she wished there were more alerts from police to keep students informed about what is going on around the OSU campus and surrounding areas.
“I think it’s a problem that we don’t know, because then we hear rumors from our friends or rumors on social media, and no one really knows what actually happened,” she said.
Vaughn said she often finds out about crimes on campus through word of mouth from classmates or her sorority sisters and roommates, and ranks her safety very highly on her list of priorities. But she knows that a crime can occur anywhere and at anytime.
She added that even if the crime does not happen directly on campus, it still should be relayed to students to help increase their awareness.
“I feel like a lot of the things that do happen, usually they happen off campus, compared to on campus. That’s where a large majority of students do live. We should have the right to know,” Vaughn said.
Ali Iqbal, a first-year in chemical engineering, said he was a victim of a crime that occurred right in his dorm in Morrison Tower.
“Someone went into my room and stole my laptop and my friend’s (PlayStation 4),” Iqbal said.
He said the burglary occurred while he was asleep in the room, and police told him to make sure he locks his doors because the biggest crime they deal with is theft.
“I don’t know if that warrants an alert necessarily, but it is still something I think they should inform the general population, like you know, lock your doors. Because I felt pretty safe in my dorm but then this happened,” Iqbal said.
He said he feels that the system isn’t being used enough because the proximity of where the crime occurred is of high importance to students.
“If a student off-campus gets injured in the Columbus area, they should alert the general student population, because it’s the university’s responsibility to take care of their students,” he said. “It’s a public school and it’s their job to make sure we’re safe. We come here to get educated and we shouldn’t have to fear for our safety. Even if it’s off campus, it’s still Columbus, the general vicinity.”
Hedman said anyone with information regarding a crime should notify the police by calling 9-1-1 in an emergency or by calling the dispatch center at 614-292-2121 for non-emergency situations.
“This is the best way to make sure that a criminal incident is reviewed for possible issuance of a Public Safety Notice,” he said. “The dispatch center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Michael Huson contributed to this article.