Bergmann: Community advisories alert students of threats, promote responsibility
While community advisory notices may seem like an automated response to a reported crime, University Police Chief and Director of Public Safety Donald Bergmann said they are actually the product of careful adherence to laws that standardize crime reporting on college campuses.
The Clery Act sets strict guidelines not only for which crimes get reported but also for how they get reported, Bergmann said.
“The Clery Act is quite specific, especially when we’re talking about when The University is required to send out an emergency notification or a timely warning, which of course is our community advisory,” he said.
The University’s policy for reporting crime is outlined in the Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. According to this report, The University will issue a community advisory for crimes such as criminal homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, burglary, arson and motor vehicle theft, as well as for any hate crimes that may occur.
Bergmann said that emergency notifications, on the other hand, are sent out if University Police suspects an immediate threat to the community.
“We put out an emergency notification when we believe there’s an immediate threat. That usually involves some type of weapon, that was either used or displayed,” he said.
According to the Safety Report, aggravated assaults will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and a community advisory will be issued if University Police feels that the suspect poses an ongoing threat to the community. Robberies that take place by way of a pickpocketing or purse snatching will be evaluated case by case as well, though an advisory is not usually issued. Sexual assaults will also be evaluated and then University Police will disseminate information as necessary.
Bergmann said it can be easy to confuse the definitions of some crimes, and that The University aims to keep advisories meaningful by not overusing them.
“There’s often a lot of confusion with simple and aggravated assault,” he said. “If someone gets punched, that doesn’t necessarily make it an aggravated assault. If we put out a community advisory every time someone got punched or pushed, it wouldn’t serve much purpose, would it?”
Bergmann also said he hopes students read and think about Community Advisories and then use the information to try to keep themselves more safe.
“Think about what you would do to keep yourself out of those situations. It’s all about trying to keep people safe and keeping the community informed,” he said. “These Community Advisories serve as a reminder that this is an urban environment, and we do have to be careful. And complacency is our challenge … I do hear a lot of ‘I never thought it would be me.’”
Bergmann said his primary goal is to keep students safe and to help them be responsible.
“My purpose in meeting with somebody is to find out where are we not getting through, what more can we do, how can we help you and how can we reinforce the importance of safety.”
The University’s Student Code of Conduct provides an amnesty clause, which generally protects students from disciplinary action should they correctly and cooperatively report emergencies. According to the Student Handbook, “all University students are expected to alert appropriate officials in the event of a health or safety emergency, including those involving abuse of alcohol or other drugs.” Bergmann said University Police abides by the Amnesty and Good Samaritan Policy outlined in the Code of Conduct.
Bergman said it is important for students to report a crime, regardless of their condition, and that he hopes intoxication would not deter underage students from reporting a crime.
“We do not want to discourage anybody from reporting a crime to University Police,” he said. “The issue of intoxication is secondary to safety.”