By Tori Zackery
Entirely East Lansing
When a crime occurs on or near Michigan State University’s campus, the university issues an alert to more 50,000 people
During the 2015-2016 school year, a local Pizza Hut, apartment complex and MSU residence hall were among establishments in the East Lansing area victim to armed robbery. Each incident prompted a message alert to be sent to the phones and emails of students and faculty, including accounting freshman Alonja Wilson.
“I feel like I get these alerts once a week,” said Wilson.
The MSU Police Department is mandated by the Clery Act, a consumer protection law passed in 1990, to make students, faculty and the public aware of crime occurring on campus. Part of this requirement includes issuing timely warnings and notifications in potential emergency situations. The frequency in which these alerts are sent out, however, created a misconception among students that more crime, especially armed robberies, have been committed in East Lansing.
“Getting alerts the past couple of months about armed robberies has impacted my perspective of crime in a negative way,” said pre-nursing sophomore Ciera McKay. “Compared to last year, I think there’s been an increase in crimes this year, especially more violent ones.”
Contrary to that belief, Lieutenant Scott Wriggelsworth of the East Lansing Police Department stated that crime trends in East Lansing, in regards to armed robbery, have remained consistent with the trends of previous years. What has changed is the communication of these crimes.
“Anytime there’s anything even remotely close to campus or involving students, they’re putting out a notice and that’s kind of a change from the past,” said Wriggelsworth. “So you’re hearing more about them, but that doesn’t mean they’re occurring more.”
Recent developments in the alert system, including a new way to subscribe to the alerts, has allowed the MSU Police to reach students, faculty and visitors more quickly through text messages, emails and phone calls. MSU Police Capt. Doug Monette said that while these alerts may cause students to be hypersensitive to crime, they are necessary.
“Part of what we are doing is we’re trying to educate and make people aware the best we can so they can take the appropriate precautions,” said Monette. “We do need to inform students and faculty and visitors of crime events. That is part of what the alert system has been designed to do.”
Students and residents who have grown accustomed to the notifications welcome them as a preventative measure to local crime.
“They’ve made me think there’s more crime on campus, but not a significant amount,” said biology junior Tionna Parker. “They happen every so often, but I don’t feel unsafe because of them, they’re nice to know.”
Wilson added that the notification system has made her more alert and protective of her dorm and cautious of her surroundings. Lieutenant Wriggelsworth said that this awareness is what keeps the community of East Lansing safe.
“We got almost 50,000 residents here and our hope is always that we won’t have any armed robberies or homes broken into, but we know that is not going to be reality,” said Wriggelsworth. “The more we can educate the public on how to limit their exposure, the more our uniformed police presence in the city can deter these criminals from hanging out in our city. There’s nowhere you can live in this society that’s gonna be free of crime, but I think overall East Lansing is a very safe community, and I think those street things are the biggest street things we got going for us.”