Loyola’s private police force, Campus Safety, has been criticized in recent years for not notifying students of serious crime in the area surrounding campus — in part by a lack of crime alert emails sent to the community.
This fall is the third consecutive year a crime alert hasn’t been sent for the first month of the school year despite violent crimes near campus, The Phoenix reported.
Crime alerts are emails sent to students and employees after a crime occurs near campus that falls under the geography of the Clery Act — a federal law requiring universities that receive federal funding to be transparent about crime on or around university campuses.
Last fall, a female student was beaten unconscious and robbed by a group of men while she was two blocks from campus walking to her apartment. Even though the assailants weren’t caught and Campus Safety responded to the crime, a crime alert wasn’t sent to students.
Chief and Director of Campus Safety Tom Murray said that’s because it wasn’t legally required under the Clery Act.
After years of Murray and his Admin Commander Tim Cunningham not returning calls or emails or answering questions, they recently spoke with The Phoenix to explain their rationale in releasing crime alerts.
Which crimes are covered by the Clery Act?
The Clery Act requires Campus Safety officials to issue a “timely” email alert following a crime that has already occurred in Clery geography but poses a “serious or continuing threat” to students and employees, according to the Clery Act Guide from the Department of Education.
“It’s more educational than investigative,” Murray said. “It’s to let people know information so that they can protect themselves in the future.”
Clery geography is any area on campus or campus buildings, public property within campus bounds, public property adjacent to campus and non-campus property owned by the university or a university-recognized organization but not technically on the “core campus,” Clery requirements state.
For example, Clery geography covers Loyola’s Engineering Science Flex Lab located at 6335 N. Broadway, the sidewalk in front of it, the street and the sidewalk across the street, but not the non-university property across the street, Cunningham said.
Crime alerts can be issued for incidents including murder or non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, robbery involving force or violence and sexual assault, according to Loyola’s Clery report.
Crime alerts are also known as “timely warnings,” which is the language used in the Clery Act for the email alerts sent to the Loyola community.
Timely warnings are issued as soon as “pertinent information” is available, but the law doesn’t give a specific timeframe or deadline for the release of an alert because of the number of factors that go into the process, Cunningham said.
“We try and get it out once we are confident that we have all the correct information that we need to include in there,” Cunningham said. “In some cases that’s going to be obvious in 15 minutes, in some cases it’s going to be a couple or a few hours, sometimes it’s more than three or four hours.”
Last academic year, students said it was “terrible” after The Phoenix found the average time between when a crime occurred and when alerts were sent was more than five hours. An alert for a burglary in Mertz Hall wasn’t sent until almost 21 hours after the crime occurred.
Loyola’s Clery report states ongoing or “imminent” threats are considered on a case-by-case basis.
In September, a man was stabbed and a Chicago police officer was injured near Lake Shore Campus, but Campus Safety didn’t release a crime alert to the Loyola community. Students told The Phoenix they felt “unsafe” and “stressed” in the midst of the situation.
When The Phoenix reached out to Murray at the time for the reasoning behind not sending an alert, he didn’t respond. Instead, a university spokesperson issued a statement on his behalf and said there was no ongoing threat because the person was arrested quickly.
“There’s so many things that go into it, that’s why it’s done case by case,” Murray said in the recent interview.
Does Campus Safety ever send crime alerts outside of Clery geography?
Campus Safety’s patrol boundaries extend further than Clery geography into the neighborhoods surrounding campus, Murray said.
The patrol boundaries stretch about half a mile around the Lake Shore Campus west of Lake Michigan to North Glenwood Avenue and between West Pratt Boulevard to the north and West Glenlake Avenue to the south.
On the Water Tower Campus, patrol boundaries extend north to West Delaware Place, west to North Dearborn Street, south to West Superior Street and east to North Michigan Avenue.
The police force can alert the community of sex abuse and gun cases involving student victims outside of Clery geography but only within the campus police force’s patrol boundaries, according to Murray.
This means students may not be alerted of a crime in patrol boundaries if it isn’t a gun or sex abuse case involving a student victim.
While Murray said he’s mandated to alert students of Clery crimes, he said he carefully considers notifying students of incidents not covered by the Clery Act because it can set an expectation for future crimes that occur.
“To broaden the requirements [of the Clery Act], once I do that, I set a precedent,” Murray said. “Once I do it, that becomes our policy.”
When asked by The Phoenix if he thinks it’s morally wrong to not send a crime alert for an incident in patrol boundaries even if it isn’t a student sex abuse or gun case, Murray directed community members toward the public police log on Loyola’s website. The police log lists any crime reported to Campus Safety that occurs within the police force’s patrol boundaries — further than Clery geography.
Campus Safety can also send a Loyola Alert — a time-sensitive text message notification in an emergency situation on campus — but these are rarely sent. Loyola Alerts will notify students of urgent situations such as an active shooter or a natural disaster.
What do students think of this policy?
Alexandra Michalak, a sophomore neuroscience major at Loyola, said she’d like to see crime alerts even if the incidents aren’t within Clery geography or don’t involve students.
“I don’t see a reason why they shouldn’t [send crime alerts outside of Clery geography] … because it would be beneficial to everyone to make sure people are staying safe,” Michalak, 20, said.
Paul Hitch, a senior environmental science major at Loyola, said he thinks the department has a moral obligation to report incidents outside of Clery geography in Edgewater and Rogers Park, but understands that sending alerts for every crime in the area could be too much.
“I could also see how that would be overwhelming in a sense that there are a lot of other crimes that take place that typically don’t affect Loyola students,” Hitch, 30, said.
Maddie Brophy, a sophomore neuroscience major at Loyola, said she thinks Clery geography should be expanded.
“If it’s just right on campus then it’s not super helpful, because I feel like most upperclassmen live off-campus,” Brophy, 19, said.