WCU Police asks students to speak out, report crime sooner

Two reports of assault were recently filed with the Western Carolina University Police Department.
The first was filed Wednesday, Nov. 14, by a third party. The report is a delayed report of a sexual assault of a female student in her dorm from last spring. No prosecutions followed.

The second report was of a possible assault at 4:02 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 16. Like the first report, a third party also filed this report. The report outlined a possible assault on a female student. According to WCU Chief of Police Ernie Hudson, the victim refused to cooperate.

“We have a problem with that,” said Hudson in reference to the lack of cooperation. “They are not simple problems, especially in the case of assault.”

To stay safe, Hudson recommended students always know where they are. If a student feels uncomfortable, they have the option of calling a friend or calling the police. The CAT-TRAN shuttles are also available for students parked away from their residence halls. If a crime is committed, students are urged to contact the police immediately.

“We have a tendency to, in some cases, see reports where events have occurred three, four days, weeks [in the past]. So, it’s always important if we’re going to have an opportunity to resolve a crime or find the person who’s accountable to get information quickly,” said Hudson.

Approximately 23 police call boxes are located throughout campus, with plans of three more to be installed, according to Hudson. The callboxes work via radio waves or telephone lines, depending on the box. Call boxes are marked with blue lights so that they are easily seen at night. Each box connects directly to WCU dispatch.

If an incident occurs, it is reported in a daily report that is filed every business day. These reports are located at the WCU Police Department headquarters. Daily crime logs are also posted online through the WCU police’s website. The logs date back to Jan. 7, 2009.

“When we send out timely warnings, we have to verify that something has occurred. We need to be accurate,” said Hudson.

Hudson continued to explain that a timely warning is put out when a reasonable threat has been made to the community. In the case of third party reports, such as the ones above, the police must first speak with the source before issuing a warning.

Daily logs, timely warnings and emergency notifications stem from the Clery Act, a set of laws put in place in 1990 after a college freshman was raped and murdered in her room in 1986 without any notification to the rest of the student body. Institutions caught with not abiding by these laws face fines.

“You need to be accurate and frankly, at times, it takes us a while for us to figure out whether [the information’s] accurate,” said Hudson.

An emergency notification, on the other hand, is something issued when an immediate threat has been issued. For example, Hudson recalled last year’s bank robbery at the State Employee Credit Union off Old Savannah Road.

“I hear rumors [that the] police don’t report what happens. Well, tell me what case. About once a year, The Western Carolinian comes and knocks on the door and says, well what about this, what about this, and I get it. I mean, you hear the rumblings,” said Hudson.

For information on the WCU police, please visit http://police.wcu.edu/. In case of an emergency, please call 828-227-8911.