Ohio State’s neighborhood vs. public safety notices

The Lantern
Leaders in public safety at Ohio State differentiate between neighborhood and public safety notices, both of which are used to inform the university community about campus-area crimes. Credit: Jessica Langer | Campus Producer

The terms “public safety notice” and “neighborhood safety notice” may seem interchangeable when referring to crimes in the off-campus area, but they are not the same thing.

Universities and colleges receiving federal aid are required by the Clery Act to report crime statistics and security information meeting certain parameters, according to the Federal Student Aid Office in the U.S. Department of Education website . Public safety notices are required by the Clery Act; however, neighborhood safety notices are not.

Ohio State began implementing neighborhood safety notices in June 2016 in an effort to increase awareness of off-campus crime among students and employees. The university periodically reviews protocols for safety notices and seeks input from the Public Safety Advisory Committee, Monica Moll, director of the Department of Public Safety, said in an email.

“Sharing crime information with our campus community is critically important because knowledge is power,” Moll said. “Neighborhood safety notices are meant to inform our students and community members of crime trends so that they can be aware and take added precautions.”

According to the 2020 Annual Security Report, the Department of Education defines campus as any institution-owned or controlled building or property within the area, related to educational or institutional purposes or frequently used by students.

Non-campus is not within the area of the institution, while public property includes streets, sidewalks and parking facilities within, adjacent to or accessible from campus. Public property does not include businesses or private residences adjacent to the campus.

University spokesperson Dan Hedman said in an email Ohio State has three types of safety notifications: Buckeye Alerts, public safety notices and neighborhood safety notices.

“ While it is not important to memorize these names, it is important to recognize that these are all different and distinct ways you can be informed about crime or other safety issues,” Hedman said.

According to the Department of Public Safety website , the Buckeye Alert System “is a multi-modal, emergency notification system that includes nearly two dozen communication methods.”

Public safety notices are issued by the University Police Division to promote safety and increase awareness about a criminal incident, while also aiding in preventing similar crimes, according to the website.

This differs from Neighborhood safety notices, which occur on non-clery property when there is a serious or continuing threat to students and employees present, according to the Department of Public Safety’s website . Notices are issued on a case-by-case basis and with the discretion of the Chief of Police.

Factors under consideration in determining the issuance of a neighborhood safety notice, according to the Department of Public Safety, may include:

  • Continuing threat and timeliness in receiving known information about a crime
  • Continuing threat and seriousness of the crime
  • The proximity of the incident to campus
  • The victim of crime’s affiliation or lack of affiliation to the university
  • The potential to interfere with an outside law enforcement agency’s criminal investigation
  • If the perpetrator has been arrested or charged with a criminal offense
  • If the crime’s information is known to the public through media or other sources

The website states that beyond a neighborhood safety notice, information about these types of off-campus crimes may be issued at the University Police Division’s discretion through social media, the Department of Public Safety website or joint media releases or warnings issued in cooperation with an outside law enforcement agency.

“Crime is never the fault of the victim, but there are actions we can all take to enhance our safety,” Moll said. “Neighborhood safety notices are meant to inform our students and community members of crime trends so that they can be aware and take added precautions.”

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