Northern Illinois University students and DeKalb residents who subscribe to NIU Safety Bulletins received four alerts within the first two weeks of classes. But is that an increase in crime, or community awareness?
All colleges and universities within the U.S. must record campus crime statistics for stalking, intimidation, hate crimes, dating or domestic violence, and sexual assault. That's according the Clery Act, which also requires schools to release Annual Security Reports.
NIU police chief Tom Phillips says the recent apparent increase in alerts doesn't necessarily mean more crime.
"Violent crime in DeKalb in 2014 was at a 10-year low,” Phillips said. “So we noticed nationwide -- and also locally in our community -- that crime is on a downward trend."
And, Phillips says, there is an increase in the number of officers during the first month of school.
"Because we know that, during the first month of September, there's an influx of new community members,” Phillips said. “And with an influx of new community members, that presents quality-of-life challenges that we want to be sure that we have adequate staffing."
It's the second year in a row that NIU has enhanced patrol during that time.
Phillips says two types of NIU Safety Bulletins are issued. An emergency alert is an immediate notification about a dangerous situation on campus. A timely warning, however, may not be as immediate. It's issued because it could pose a continuing threat to community members.
The alert about two brothers shot during an off-campus party last weekend, for example, was considered a timely warning.
"Crime will never go away; it's a reality of life,” Phillips said. “But what we try to do is be transparent in reporting and empowering the community to have the information they need to protect themselves."