March 25, 2008

Robbery on Stewart Ave. Demonstrates Flaws of Text Message Alert System

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On Sunday night around midnight, the University Alert system reported an armed robbery on the 400 block of Stewart Avenue near the Chapter House. Two victims were robbed of a cell phone and some cash by two black males that were just over six feet tall. One wore a red hooded sweatshirt and the other one a black hooded sweatshirt. One of them flashed a silver handgun before they fled down Buffalo Street after the robbery.
So far, no one has been apprehended in connection with the robbery. The Ithaca Police Department, which is handling the case, has not yet published a press release and the case remains pending on the department’s activity logs.[img_assist|nid=29086|title=Robberies abound|desc=The 400 block of Stewart Ave. was the most recent location of an armed robbery. Victims lost their cell phones and cash to the criminals.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Notice of the criminal activities was sent to students by text message in addition to the usual crime alert email sent to the University’s listserve. The message — disseminated through Cornell’s new AlertNow Text message system that was implemented in November — read: “Armed robbery 11:15 p.m. outside Chapter House, Stewart Ave. Suspects headed down Buffalo St. Be aware, check e-mail updates.”
This was the first emergency alert sent out via text message, according to Simeon Moss ’73, director of Cornell Press Relations.
“It was a test, but the point was also to get out the information,” he said.
Though the message proved that the system is up and running, many students complained about the timeliness of the update.
“I got mine at 12:15,” said Shelly Castorena ’10. “How great is it that we know an hour after it happened that someone that ran down Buffalo St.? It’s nice that they sent the text message because it made me lock my door, but I don’t know how helpful it was in the long-run.”
Others received their messages significantly later. Melissa Lumish ’10 got her text after 1:00 a.m.
“I didn’t really find it helpful because if the robber was going to do anything to us, he would have already been there by the time I got the text,” she said. “I like the idea of the system though, if the text comes in time.”