Today, we received a chain of emails between a Tulane Student, Morgan E., and TUPD administration. Her house was violently broken into while (luckily, unlike the most recent crime report) she was not present.
Read the emails below. Our commentary is underneath.
Note: The last name of the student has been altered to protect their anonymity.
From: Barnwell, Jon R
Sent: Monday, July 09, 2012 8:02 PM
To: E, Morgan
Cc: Cowen, Scott S; Lorino, Anthony P
Subject: Re: TUPD and Crime Alerts
Thanks for responding and again providing some insight and recommendations from the community. It is invaluable to our continued success and delivery of service to Tulane and people living and working uptown. As you said in closing, it takes all of us. Together, we can make our community a safe place to live, work and learn.
Sent from my iPhone
On Jul 9, 2012, at 5:53 PM, “E, Morgan” wrote:
Dear Superintendent Barnswell,
Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. From my understanding, burglary falls within the crimes that must be reported according to the Clery Act, though it is unclear if Crime Alerts regarding burglary exceed the requirements of the act.
Regardless, the 22 year-old Federal Statute should serve as the bare minimum for Tulane’s Safety Policy. TUPD should exceed federal regulations and should strive to lead campuses nationwide in policies for crime prevention and response.
The fact is, had a Crime Alert been sent out reporting a burglary on Audubon St. we could have possibly prevented the armed robbery of two more students on Audubon St. Those students might have reconsidered walking home alone that night, knowing that a crime had just occurred on that block. While it is impossible to predict whether or not this would be the case, Tulane University should take as many precautions as possible and should provide students and neighbors with every possible tool to prevent crime and promote safety.
Students should be made aware that Crime Alerts do not include all crimes reported in TUPD’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, TUPD should establish, and publish, specific guidelines regulating the types of crimes that will be reported in Crime Alerts. For example, Crime Alerts have been sent out for burglaries in the past, and it is inconsistent and arbitrary that the Chief of TUPD gets to decide which burglaries matter. Finally, students, faculty, staff, and all members of Tulane’s community should be able to provide input about what kind of crimes they would like reported to them, and how frequently.
Our campus’ safety is of great importance to me. Tulane is an incredible university in one of the world’s most unique cities, but we must all work together to help create a safer campus and and a safer New Orleans.
Please let me know how we can work together to meet these goals,
From: Barnwell, Jon R
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 1:27 PM
To: E, Morgan
Cc: Cowen, Scott S; Lorino, Anthony P
Subject: RE: TUPD and Crime Alerts
Thanks for taking the time to make us aware of your unfortunate experience. I hate to hear that your apartment was broken into and ransacked. I hate even more that the police response from NOPD and your conversation with Chief Potts didn’t meet the level of service you were expecting. I am glad that TUPD officers were able to respond and provide assistance to you. The stipulations regarding the issuance of a crime alert are governed by the Campus security act of 1990 otherwise known as the Clery Act. Because we believe an educated community is a safe community, we routinely send out information that doesn’t meet the requirement in an effort to keep our students informed. Your situation could fall in that category and that’s why I can understand your frustration. I plan to examine our practice and look at how we can prevent future issues with the information sharing process. We are currently looking at more innovative ways to keep the community informed including facebook, twitter, and a new public safety app integrated into our Tulane app. We also generate a daily crime log accessible from our website. Again, I apologize that our service did not meet your expectations and appreciate you bringing it to our attention so it can be addressed. If I can ever be of assistance, feel free to contact my cell at 504-214-4098.
From: E, Morgan
Sent: Sunday, July 08, 2012 10:33 AM
To: Cowen, Scott S; Barnwell, Jon R
Cc: Noble, Reid B
Subject: TUPD and Crime Alerts
Dear President Cowen and Superintendent Barnwell,
I am writing to you regarding my experience with TUPD following a burglary in my home on Audubon St. I graduated from the School of Liberal Arts in May 2012 with a degree in Philosophy and Spanish and will be attending Harvard Law School in the fall.
I have spent the last year working for the Orleans Public Defenders office, in a position that began as a Tulane Service-Learning Internship but that developed into a passion for the pursuit of justice in New Orleans.
I returned home from work on Thursday, July 5, 2012, to find that the dead-bolt lock on the door to my apartment had been forced open with a pry bar; the apartment had been ransacked and burglarized. I called 911 and waited for the police, who never came. I called NOPD more than a dozen times over the course of the day, and, unfortunately, they never responded.
The following day, Friday, July 6, 2012, I called TUPD, after I was told that TUPD does not customarily respond to calls until after NOPD has conducted a report. As I was unable to elicit a response from NOPD, my recourse was limited. My mother called and spoke to Chief Potts and two TUPD officers arrived and surveyed the scene. The officers were friendly and helpful. They waited with me for NOPD to arrive, and NOPD sent a Crime Scene Investigator to take fingerprints from the apartment.
I emailed photos and videos to TUPD officers, documenting the break-in, and assumed that a Crime Alert would be generated in response to the filing of the report. Chief Potts assured my mother that they would increase surveillance in the area and have a patrol in the vicinity.
On Saturday, July 7, 2012, I received a Crime Alert about an Armed Robbery on my block, that alert was immediately followed by an alert about an Armed Carjacking just down the street. I called TUPD to ask about the status of my Crime Report and to ask why a Crime Alert email had not been sent out regarding the burglary I reported.
Chief Potts informed me that he had made the executive decision not to send out a Crime Alert regarding the breaking and entering of a home I share with current Tulane students. Chief Potts was defensive as I asked him why he chose not to do it.
The first reason he gave me was that he did not want to clog everyone’s inbox with too many Crime Alert emails, because he thought people wouldn’t read them if he did that. He said that he generally reported patterns of crime, not isolated instances. So I asked him why he didn’t retroactively send out a report after an armed robbery and an armed carjacking occurred on the same block within 24 hours of the burglary I reported. He answered that those crimes involved armed attackers. Chief Potts does not know if the person who broke into my home was armed, though they did use a pry bar to break open the door.
Chief Potts’ tone was angry and he was short with me throughout the conversation, he finally angrily agreed to send out an alert but I was incredibly disappointed with the way he handled the entire conversation as well as the reporting of the crime.
First, we cannot prevent crime by ignoring it. The reason we send Crime Alerts is to alert students, neighbors and affiliates about crime in their neighborhoods. Crime Alerts help communities prevent crime; they encourage students to take SafeRides, double-check their locks, turn on their front porch lights, or report suspicious sightings. Crime Alerts are a valuable means of helping to keep Tulane, and New Orleans, safer.
Second, Chief Potts’ arbitrary discretion about which reports he chooses to send Crime Alerts for is unsettling. Most students, as I was, are under the impression that Crime Alerts are sent out for all reported crimes. It is misleading to pick and choose which crimes will be reported and which won’t. Students, parents, faculty and staff deserve to know about all of the crime in their neighborhood, not just the crimes that Chief Potts chooses to report.
Crime Alerts matter, and if there are so many crimes that Chief Potts believes that it isn’t worth crowding our inbox with those reports, then we need to focus on the root of the problem: preventing crime, not hiding it.
I was extremely disappointed with Chief Potts’ response to me, and was ashamed and shocked to learn that the Chief of the Tulane University Police Department doesn’t see the value that Crime Alerts have for the community.
I ask that TUPD keep an online database of all crime reports accessible on their website, and that a Crime Alert is generated for every single crime reported in TUPD’s jurisdiction. If, as Chief Potts believes, this would generate so many Crime Alert emails that people would rather not receive them, there should be a means for choosing how frequently one wishes to receive Crime Alerts.
On March 30, 2012 Chief Potts told The Hullaballoo, “The more that we’re in the community, the better we’ll be… The only way we learn what’s going on is if people communicate with each other,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Crime Alerts are an important tool for preventing crime and keeping students safe. I hope that we can work together to help promote awareness of crime within the community and open a dialogue between TUPD and the citizens it protects.
I look forward to hearing from you soon,
***Note: Emphasis added by It’s Not Enough
Several things stick out to us as very problematic:
- NO CRIME REPORT WAS FILED until it was DEMANDED by the student…and this did not happen until the Saturday, July 7th, two days after the break in, which occurred on Thurday, July 5th.
- TWO armed robberies occurred after this break-in. Perhaps students would have been more careful if they had known a break-in had recently occurred? Perhaps they could have been committed by the same people who broken in to Morgan’s house? Using a pry-bar to break into a home seems inherently violent to me, the fact that the perpetrators brought a tool designed to break into a home seems that their intent was very clear.
- The fact that Chief Potts did not immediately file a crime report is inexcusable. Especially since this was his reasoning as to why not:
“He did not want to clog everyone’s inbox with too many Crime Alert emails, because he thought people wouldn’t read them if he did that.”
It’s pretty ridiculous to suggest that Tulane students would not read crime reports if there are “too many” in their inbox, considering the victims are their friends and peers. Chief Potts insults the intelligence of the Tulane student body to think that we would accept an excuse like the one he gave for not sending a crime report immediately.
- Scott Cowen was also contacted by Morgan, and she was completely ignored. This, unfortunately, is not surprising since President Cowen never directly acknowledged It’s Not Enough, or the concerns of the Tulane students. When is he actually going to talk to the student body?
Here are screenshots of the crime reports, and you can see that the one concerning Morgan’s house was sent retroactively. Also, Morgan snapped some pictures of her door, and the NOPD taking finger prints.