UP disclosure crucial for students’ safety

University Police, we need your help.

Last Wednesday’s Northern Star referenced a Department of Education report calling out the UP for lack of compliance disclosing liquor violations. The Clery Act requires that universities release crime data in a timely manner.

It is important to know the mistakes made in 2005 are indicative of system breakdown. We do not believe that university officials are maliciously trying to create an unsafe setting without awareness.

This is a problem of perception. Your university police force thinks they are telling you enough to protect yourself. They are not.

The problem of perception has pervaded the department for years.

The phrase, “We disclose more than we have to,” has been uttered more than once by the UP leadership.

But the report we referenced last week shows this isn’t – or at least at one time hasn’t been – true. The origins of this faulty line of thought are irrelevant. It’s time to move on and initiate procedural change within the UP operation.

This shows why the Clery Act is so important. This information has to be prodded out of those officials that should want everyone to know what police go through on a daily basis. Understanding comes through a free flow of information.

It is important for students to know if their area is susceptible to certain crime trends. NIU officials and Housing and Dining employees warn students to be safe, but it’s hard to understand the seriousness on these warnings alone.

Many students just can’t understand why it’s important to be safe unless they can see what could happen if they aren’t.

It should not be more difficult to get the UP information than DeKalb Police information. The city of DeKalb recognizes and sees the public interest served in full disclosure.

Because students are at greater risk of attack, it should be made easier for them to be proactive citizens and take responsibility for their own safety.

We shouldn’t have to fight to obtain facts and information of which the public must be aware. Our organizations have similar goals when it comes to informing for the public.

Since we’ve been printing stories about recent crime, we’ve been having even more difficulty reporting on campus crime. A Northern Star reporter was told last week he needed to submit a Freedom of Information Act request for any incident follow-up questions.

Look at a recent and incredibly vague blotter at www.finfacil.niu.edu/publicsafetydept/offenselog.aspx?61,5.

You will see terms such as “closed due to failure to cooperate” and “administratively closed,” which stand for myriad of different scenarios, most of which the public will never know of.

Two business days is not too much time to ask police to reveal details of an incident. In fact, it’s the law. If virtually every other college police force in the nation can be compliant, why should NIU be an exception?

If we don’t have crime issues, as is often professed, then why wouldn’t keeping up with paperwork be a minute detail?

Perhaps less time should be spent automating the UP Web site with Flash gimmicks such as the “Star Wars” theme song and more on accurately and sufficiently disclosing what is required by the law.

There needs to be decisive action to solve the issue of police disclosure of university crime in DeKalb.

This is not a rant at University police officers, this is a call for a cooperative venture. Let’s do what’s right and inform the public as your duty requires.

Citizens must be given the chance to protect themselves.