Public Safety did not inform about weapon in DePaul Center


Sofia Leal

A Chicago police officer sits in his squad car in front of the State Street entrance of the DePaul Center where Barnes & Noble employees were threatened earlier this month.

On April 6, an unidentified offender was arrested at the DePaul Center for harassing Barnes & Noble employees with an undisclosed weapon.

The DePaulia was given these records a week after the incident occurred and Public Safety said it did not qualify for a DPU Alert.

“An Aggravated Assault report was filed regarding an incident in which an offender threatened Barnes & Noble employees with a weapon in the DePaul Center,” according to the weekly Campus Crime Report from April 6 to April 12 said. “Chicago Police arrived on scene and took the offender into custody.”

Public Safety declined to comment or provide details about when the incident occurred, what kind of weapon was used during the harassment and when CPD arrived. Lynn Safranek, a DePaul spokesperson, said DPU Alerts are determined on a case-by-case basis.

“In general, Public Safety does not issue a timely warning if the offender is apprehended and the threat of imminent danger for members of the community has been mitigated by the apprehension,” Safranek said in a statement to The DePaulia.

DePaul spokesperson Kristin Mathews also said that these issues were determined by a case-by-case basis.

“The underlying principle in distributing timely warnings is to distribute the relevant information to the appropriate people quickly and effectively,” she said in a statement to The DePaulia in March. “Decisions about whether to issue a timely warning, the information to include in a timely warning, and the form in which a timely warning will be issued, will be made on a case-by-case basis by Public Safety, in light of the relevant circumstances.”

DPU Alerts is an alert notification system for emergencies around campus and can contact students through email, phone and message.

This is the second incident where Public Safety did not qualify weapons on campus as a threat to the community, after another unidentified offender brought a gun in the Daley Building in the Loop campus.

“There hasn’t been a ton of crime happening inside of DePaul buildings or inside classroom environments,” said Cole Kitchens, Student Government Association senator for Driehaus College of Business. “The majority has been commuting to class and around that area.”

DePaul recently implemented an inter-campus shuttle between Lincoln Park and the Loop for students who do not feel comfortable taking the CTA trains or buses in the late afternoon or evening.

“It’s understandable that we do live in a city, it’s one of the largest cities in the United States,” Kitchens said. “Exposure to crime is going to be inevitable; however, I think that preventing it as much as possible, especially on campus grounds, is extremely important.”

Avery Schoenhals, SGA senator for the College of Communication, said he wants Public Safety to be more transparent about when these incidents occur.

“Start with communicating these types of incidents as they happen and not hours later, or in this most recent case, I believe it was actually almost 24 hours later that any notification was sent out,” Schoenhals said.

An armed robbery occurred to a DePaul Center restaurant employee on April 15 around 10 p.m., according to a Public Safety alert. The alert was sent out about an hour later at 11 p.m. to students.

The Crime Reporting and Clery Act Compliance policy reports that the Director of Public Safety will determine crime alerts on a case by case basis. Currently, Bob Wachowski, DePaul’s director of public safety, is “is responsible for ensuring that a timely warning is issued to the university community.”

“There’s really no information that they’ve put out there as to what criteria you are using to determine what case gets what kind of notification,” Schoenhals said. “It’s great that we get the public safety alerts that we do, that needs to come a lot quicker.”

Kitchens said he would be interested in Public Safety releasing why they don’t issue alerts for major incidents such as the weapon.

“I very much trust Public Safety’s judgment and when recording crime on campus and in their efforts of crime prevention,” he said. “I wouldn’t say they would have to issue a reason for everything, but for ones that are that are more serious crimes that occur. There should be a reason why they didn’t issue a DPU alert.”

The reasoning would also have been timely as well.

“The timeliness of those notifications would help people make those decisions for themselves,” Schoenhals said. “I wouldn’t want anybody to be put in a situation scared about an ongoing situation, but at the same time, any information is better than no information.”

Public Safety has not released any more information about the incident.