This is in response to the article (UPD and MPD investigate armed robbery) on the front page of last Thursday’s Hatchet that attempted to accurately report the facts of an armed robbery that took place in the Aramark offices on the second floor of the Marvin Center on Oct. 12.
We understand that Hatchet reporters are students who are trying to learn the journalism trade. However, there were not only some inaccuracies in the story, but based on some erroneous facts, an editorial (Dangerous Silence, p. 4) also appeared unfairly criticizing the University for its actions. We strongly feel the editorial position taken was premature and unwarranted.
University Police were on the scene within minutes, a report was filed, a crime alert was released to the GW community, meetings aimed at assessing Marvin Center security got underway and The Hatchet was officially informed about details of the crime, including the description of the suspects and a statement about what actions were taken in the aftermath of the robbery. Our obvious priority on that Tuesday afternoon was to secure the scene, assist the authorities and release a crime alert to the public as quickly as possible. We were then able to focus on giving The Hatchet detailed information in plenty of time for the paper’s next edition on Thursday.
The article starts out by saying two armed men robbed the Marvin Center when in fact only one of the suspects was armed. The article misquotes UPD Director Dolores Stafford as saying no one patrols the second floor yet the next paragraph goes on to explain that UPD provides a 24-hour patrol in the Marvin Center. The fact is, the Marvin Center has a University Police presence 24 hours a day. Reporters interviewed just one employee who works in another office on the second floor. This person claims not to have been told anything about the robbery. Yet, there is no mention of the crime alert posted across campus. Moreover, the article fails to sufficiently point out that the office that was robbed is run by Aramark, a private food service company with its own security procedures in place. The Hatchet reported no effort to contact Aramark for comment. Despite the apparent assumptions by The Hatchet, the University cannot speak on behalf of Aramark.
But rehashing details like these amounts to splitting hairs compared to The Hatchet’s lack of understanding for cases involving serious crimes. When an incident like this happens, the University needs to speak with one voice through its public relations department so that the information given out is accurate and not speculative. The fact that the suspects did escape and that the investigation is ongoing simply reiterates our need to ensure the sanctity of the police investigation. In the first 24 hours after a crime, it is critical that police are able to do their jobs. For the safety of the GW community and to ensure that the police investigation results in an arrest, there are certain details that cannot be released immediately to the press.
When Hatchet reporters arrived on the scene shortly after the crime occurred, they were not kept in the dark but were given an initial briefing and told to call in a few hours for an account of what happened. In this kind of situation, the safety of students and employees and apprehending the individuals involved in the crime are our top priorities. In our opinion, the reporters had sufficient information to do a story, and it was provided in a timely manner.
We understand that The Hatchet has a job to do. But reporters for The Hatchet should respect the fact that University Police officials also have a job to do.
-Dolores Stafford is the director of University Police and Barbara Porter is the director of Public Affairs.