Weeks after an off-campus rape highlighted the lack of communication between the University Police Department and the Metropolitan Police Department, an on-campus robbery Saturday involving both departments raised the same issue once again. This incident demonstrates that even when both UPD and MPD respond to the same crime, the two departments fail to communicate effectively. This lack of communication is potentially harmful to students, and needs to be rectified immediately.
The robbery occurred on the block of 21st and G streets Saturday evening, when the suspect, who remains at large, stole a student’s laptop and fled. The victim called MPD first, and UPD arrived later, but the two incident reports differed.
MPD’s report featured more pertinent details like the suspects height, clothing and a description of the suspect’s vehicle. UPD’s report included only the suspect’s race and did warrant sending a Crime Alert to students. Under the Clery Act, campus police officers are required to notify students of ongoing threats on campus. But those departments are also allowed to practice case-by-case discretion when deciding whether or not they have a detailed enough description to warrant a Crime Alert. In the case of Saturday’s robbery, UPD did not believe it had enough information to send a Crime Alert, but if UPD had asked metropolitan police for additional information, GW would probably have sent out an alert.
This incident reiterates the need for these two departments to communicate better and in a way that will keep students informed and safe on campus. If MPD and UPD respond to the same incident and have their own individual reports covering that incident, they need to share the information with each other.
Students are ultimately being affected by this glaring communication failure. Crime Alerts notify students of threats, and yet students have yet to learn of Saturday’s crime via a UPD-issued Infomail. We understand that UPD did not have a detailed enough account of the suspect to send out an alert, but the fact that the information was included in MPD’s report proves that someone in both departments did not think to compare reports. By not doing so, UPD and MPD deprived students of information essential to their safety.
This is not the first incident this semester that illustrated a need for improved communication between MPD and UPD. An alleged rape that occurred weeks ago near Washington Circle was obviously an incident of student concern and posed a threat to the community. However, MPD did not notify UPD of the crime, and so UPD was not able to inform students of the incident until the following evening.
But with an on-campus crime that both MPD and UPD respond to, University police have an obligation to find out what metropolitan police have learned about a crime. Though officials say the departments communicate regularly, the robbery shows that the two departments are not doing enough to share vital information that will keep students informed and safe. Someone in either department needs to step up and improve this communication, as failing to do so could be dangerous.
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