Cozzi’s view: Police should have issued text advisory in Travel Inn incident

Danny Cozzi

At least one shot was fired Friday on Lincoln Highway near the Travel Inn during a gunfire incident.

NIU Police Chief Tom Phillips said a fight took place in the Travel Inn parking lot. DeKalb police said at least one shot was fired, but there were only minor injuries that didn’t come from the gunfire.

“There will not be a text alert [to students] because there is no immediate threat right now based on the information we have,” Phillips said.

Although it wasn’t an “immediate threat,” as Phillips said, I think it’s important to understand there’s a difference between sending an “alert” and an “advisory.”

An alert is issued to “distribute urgent information regarding emergencies that dictate immediate action because they present an imminent threat to the lives and safety of the general campus population,” according to NIU’s Emergency Information website.

On the other hand, advisories are “timely notifications” of possible emergencies “on or near campus where the threat is not immediate or life-threatening.”

Although I agree Friday’s situation didn’t necessitate an emergency alert, I think it absolutely required an advisory. Students need to be aware of events like this so they know to be cautious.

“I think that they definitely should’ve told the students,” said junior audiology major Candice Truman. “It’s important to know about stuff like that.”

This wasn’t just a random shooting at some obscure off-campus location. This took place in the middle of a weekday when classes were in session, less than a five-minute walk from classrooms full of students.

Truman has not signed up for the text alert program, but there are many students who have.

“I’d say I’d like to be notified,” said sophomore acting major Alex Pappas, who is registered for text alerts.

Neither Pappas nor Truman knew about the incident beforehand. Whether NIU wanted to prevent panic, felt the police had the situation under control or whatever reason is irrelevant. The university has a text alert and advisory system for a reason, and this is a perfect example of when it should be used. Students need to be informed of what’s going on around them, no matter what.

I asked a few police officers at the Travel Inn what had happened and was denied information. I can understand police not releasing information to a random bystander, but for the university not to consider this worthy of an advisory is a mistake in judgment.

Though police detained people, that didn’t mean the situation was resolved. And while I applaud NIU, DeKalb and Sycamore police for their quick response and handling of the situation, I’m very disappointed to see my phone was not lit up by an advisory from the university.

According to NIU’s Emergency Notification System website, students and university personnel “who provide their mobile phone number in MyNIU are automatically registered to receive safety bulletin advisories and emergency alerts text messages….”

Students may also register two additional contacts, whether they be family members, spouses or whoever they choose. Additional contacts will only receive alerts, not advisories, according to the website.

I found out about the Travel Inn incident because I happened to be walking toward the crime scene on my way to Dunkin’ Donuts. Upon seeing squad cars and flashing lights, I immediately checked my phone to see the Northern Star had been posting about the incident for 15 minutes.

Nobody should have to learn about reported shots fired by stumbling upon the scene. NIU ought to seriously reconsider its standards for sending out advisories to students.