October 21, 2011

2011 Fall Safety Update

To: The Campus Community
From: Marlon Lynch, Associate Vice President for Safety and Security and Chief of Police
Date: October 21, 2011

As another school year gets underway, I am writing to report on new security initiatives, and to ask each of you to take specific steps to help keep campus safe.

We have many levels of communication about crime and safety issues. For the most life-threatening situations that require immediate action from members of our community, we use a system called “cAlert.” The cAlert system allows us to send each of you a warning, with instructions about how to take action, via automated phone calls to your desk and cell phones, text messages, email and more.

Over the summer, we revamped the cAlert system and added new features. We automatically enrolled all faculty, staff, students, and other academic personnel into the system, using the information available in the University directory. But we need your help to ensure you get any emergency message as fast as possible: We strongly urge you to visit the cAlert website, to verify that the information we have is accurate, and add any numbers, addresses or devices that would be likely to reach you in an emergency. Later this fall, we expect to provide information about upcoming testing.

The cAlert system is supported by a growing network of public address speakers around campus. Outdoors, new emergency phones can broadcast the message. Inside large campus buildings, beginning with those that have gathering areas where phones and computers are not readily available, we have added emergency loudspeakers that would also provide warning. Those are now in place in the Regenstein Library, Reynolds Club, Mandel Hall, Hutchinson Commons, Cobb Hall, Harper Library, Ratner Center, Ida Noyes, Kent Hall, Bartlett Commons and the South Campus and Pierce Dining Halls, with more on the way. Also, new VOIP desk phones on campus are equipped with external speakers that will broadcast emergency messages.

Every year there are a few crimes or trends, on or near campus, that present a specific threat, but do not constitute a life-threatening emergency. To inform the community about those, we send out a campus-wide email known as a security alert, detailing the crime and suggesting measures we can all take to protect ourselves. The guidelines for issuing security alerts were developed by a presidential commission that included faculty, students, staff and community members. They carefully considered the circumstances in which such an alert would be effective, and how it would fit in the context of other communications.

For those who want more information about incidents of all kinds, throughout the University of Chicago Police patrol area, a full log of incident reports is posted each day. That website also contains crime statistics, and I am glad to report that violent crime remains at historic lows in the Hyde Park-South Kenwood neighborhood.

In past safety updates, I have informed you about security guards posted at the Midway Plaisance crossings in the evenings (look for yellow shirts or jackets with the University name and Security printed on them), the North Campus police foot patrol and security guards on Ellis and University avenues. In addition to those, we have now assigned one police officer and one security guard to the Main Quadrangle, 24 hours a day.

Each of us can help, as well. You’ve likely heard these tips before, but they are important ways to prevent each of us as individuals, and our community as a whole, from being targeted:

  • When walking around campus and in the neighborhood, walk in groups and stay alert, especially at night
  • Avoid using cell phones, iPods and headphones while walking, or displaying items that might be attractive to a criminal
  • Use public transportation: free bus service, SafeRide and umbrella service.

I look forward to a safe and productive year.