Robbery at 1920 Commons raises UPennAlert questions
Division of Public Safety explained lack of UPennAlert after armed robbery in Commons
November 18, 2011, 12:54 am·
Elizabeth Jacobs | DP
Penn Police have identified a suspect who entered 1920 Commons Tuesday night and — with the help of a gun — made off with cash, Division of Public Safety spokesperson Stef Karp wrote in an email.
“[Penn Police] … are moving forward to affect an arrest,” Karp wrote.
There were no injuries in connection to the robbery, but some students wonder why a UPennAlert, which contacts members of the Penn community through text message, phone call and email in the event of an emergency, was not issued.
“This leads me to believe they’re trying to hide these sorts of events,” Wharton junior Eddie Elizondo said, adding that “their interest in student safety isn’t coming first.”
“As in any case involving a crime, we analyzed the situation and were confident there was no need to send out a UPennAlert,” Karp wrote. “When the police arrived on the scene it was believed that this male had fled from the area, it was not a random act and there was no longer a continual threat to the community.”
Even if Penn Police had evidence that the suspect fled or was on campus, that “still could pose a potential security threat to those who live off campus,” Elizondo added.
“I don’t know much about how DPS alerts operate,” Wharton sophomore Kate Ham said, “but when I receive them, I feel slightly safer on campus.”
While he still has full confidence in the Penn Police and AlliedBarton security force, Elizondo said he would expect to be alerted by the University about an armed robbery on campus.
“Even when the the odds of a repeat robbery or repeat incident are extremely low or minimal … DPS has a responsibility to let the student body know [about it],” Ham said.
However, Ham also acknowledged she could understand why DPS might have felt an alert was unnecessary once it was clear that the suspect was gone.
The use of the UPennAlert system often receives mixed responses. The last time it was issued was for an instance of public lewd behavior on Locust Walk in September.
In March, a UPennAlert was issued within 30 minutes of a shooting that occurred on 41st and Pine streets, advising students to keep clear of the scene. A second alert shortly afterwards notified students that the coast was clear.
The event prompted the Undergraduate Assembly to pass a unanimous resolution recognizing the importance of issuing alerts.
The resolution noted three incidents, including the 41st and Pine shooting and a night in January, when a group of juveniles made multiple assaults on students within the Penn Patrol Zone. No UPennAlert was sent out in the January incident.
The final incident the UA referred to was a November 2010 shooting on 40th and Locust streets, which left one of two carjackers dead after a police chase. The suspects were quickly apprehended and although no text message was sent, an email notification was issued.
“The things that potentially impact us more, like [Tuesday’s armed robbery] and the shooting [near] the high-rises … are the things that they’re not really responding to,” Elizondo said.
Ham suggested, “It might be wise to run some sort of focus group or survey within the student body to figure out what types of … crimes most people feel are necessary warnings.”