Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alert Carolina - the complaints continue

Not too long ago I blogged a comparison of Alert Carolina and Hawk Alert, differentiating between the emergency notification systems used at UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Iowa. You can read the earlier post here. I commented on how the University of Iowa uses social networking such as Twitter and Facebook to keep people, not just students or staff at Iowa, but also anyone subscribed to their Twitter feed informed about emergency messages. I also mentioned that Alert Carolina had been receiving critical reviews from students - and wouldn't you know, we had another potential emergency situation at UNC Chapel Hill and students felt they were left out (again).
A rape occurred in an alley just off campus and like me, most students found first out about the rape through their local news, not Alert Carolina and not any other UNC newsmedia. Needless to say, students are not happy about this lack of notification. Some factors cited as possibly causing the delay in notifying students or the lack of Alert Carolina notifications are the fact that the report was not made to campus police, but the local police or that the rape did not occur on campus proper, but in an alley close to campus.

I remember the comments after 9/11 that CIA and FBI were not talking, otherwise the fact that the hijackers took flying lessons would have been discovered earlier ... - anyway, the difference on whether a crime is reported to campus police or local police makes very little difference as far as the safety of students and residents in the area is concerned. A rape occurred, the rapist was in the area and no one was notified.
The other reason for the lack of Alert Carolina notification  - the rape did not occur on campus property - makes even less sense to me. The rape occurred in an area near campus - close to enough to campus to alert students about the incident - instead it sounds as if police is trying to convince people that the rapist was not able to cross a street and get to campus.

I find it hard to believe that the University of Iowa can report an attempted robbery and then through Twitter and Facebook alert students and regular citizens in Iowa City about the route that suspect took as well as a description of the suspect. At the same time, in Chapel Hill people seem to be more concerned about which police station got the report and where the actual event took place. We are not talking New York City and  a 50 block distance, we are talking about downtown Chapel Hill, where a lot of people can conveniently bike to work because everything is so close to the University.
I understand that no one wants to create unnecessary panic, but Alert Carolina is there for a reason and recently the only way Alert Carolina makes news is for lack of action.
I think members of Project Dinah summed it up nicely as quoted in the Daily Tarheel: “We rely upon DPS to alert us immediately in any emergency, and we are frustrated to have learned about this event from outside media sources and not from our campus community." 

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