March 11, 2014

Police Respond to Concerns Over Crime Alerts at Collegetown Meeting

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In light of recent crimes in Ithaca, representatives from the Ithaca Police Department and the Cornell University Police Department responded to the recent crime alerts at a Collegetown Neighborhood Council Meeting Tuesday.

In response to concerns that crime rates are on the rise, Lt. Christopher Townsend of the Ithaca Police said “[he] would not say it is on the rise, but [that he] would not saying it is on the decline.”

“Most of the crimes that we have in his area unfortunately come back to substance abuse,” Thomson said, citing the recent incident at Rite-Aid, which he said involved “two guys with guns stealing Oxycontin,” as an example.

“Unfortunately, we have such limited resources to fight it that … we’re not even plugging holes. We’re just grabbing at the edges,” he said.

Townsend also cited the drug community’s tendency to go “behind closed doors” as a reason why it is difficult to provide assistance.

“Tompkins County has the best drug and alcohol programs out there,” he said. “Trying to treat the addiction is a big part of the cure, but some of these people don’t want to be cured.”

During the meeting, Peggy Matta, the clery compliance and support administrator for CUPD, also explained the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act — which require higher education institutions to publish an annual report of campus crime statistics.

Aside from Campus Watch — Cornell’s yearly crime-watch publication — the act requires that institutions “issue timely warnings about Clery Act crimes that pose a serious or ongoing threat to students and employees.”

This requirement led to the development of the Crime Alert system, according to David Honan, deputy chief for CUPD. Although the alerts are only sent to the Cornell community, CUPD collaborates with the IPD, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office and the Village of Cayuga Heights Police to collect and distribute the relevant information as quickly as possible, according to Honan.

“We really appreciate the work of these other agencies,” he said. “Without them, we really couldn’t put out these alerts in a timely manner.”

Furthermore, there is no set distance that determines the crimes that will make it into Crime Alerts — anything that CUPD deems a threat to the Cornell community will be included in an alert, Honan said.

The purpose of these alerts is to make students aware of reported crimes “so they can take steps to protect themselves” and to include descriptors that can help them notify police, according to Honan.

“The information is gathered very quickly after the incident,” Honan said. “We’ve had cases where we had a serious offense. We sent out a crime alert, and shortly after the crime alert was sent there’s been an apprehension, we found out that the case was unfounded or something has changed.”