As he rushed to his systems and physiology lab, Boston University junior Thomas Loui’s phone buzzed. He checked his phone to see that a third armed robbery had occurred in Brookline, this time down the street from his apartment.
“I must have just dodged it on my way out of the apartment,” said Loui. He probably would not have heard about the robbery until much later if he had not received the alert from BUPD. “The texts are a good way of letting people who are not directly connected to the campus know what is happening.”
Loui was a pleased customer of BU’s alert system when he received texts about the string of armed robberies between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9, but other students gave mixed reviews. The BU Alert System, created after the Virginia Tech attack in Fall 2007, informs students, faculty and staff about potentially dangerous situations via text, email, or phone calls.
For Jack O’Dea, an exchange student from Dublin City University in Dublin, Ireland, the alerts opened his eyes to the dangers of living in Boston.
“It does push students to think about their safety. It really projects fear in me,” O’Dea said after reading his text messages about the armed robberies. “The text messages push it in your face: should you be taking these risks?”
Others, however, thought the BU Alert System sent out unnecessary information. After arrests were made in connection with the armed robberies, the BU Alert System sent messages stating that suspects had been arrested and more information could be found on BU Today, the internal online campus newsletter. Many complained that the alert system should not be used to update the BU community on the progress of events.
“Please stop using the BU alert texts and emails to send updates about arrests. The system should be used to provide pertinent warnings and the change in conditions related to those warnings only (this is not enough of a change to warrant the use of text),” one commenter wrote in response to a BU Today article on the robberies. While some comments expressed similar sentiments, others believed the updates on the arrests were important.
“I think it is important, after an alert concerning armed robberies, to notify everyone originally notified that suspects have been arrested,” another commenter replied. “This is as vital to our sense of safety as the original announcements. Thank you for keeping us posted, this is serious stuff.”
Scott Pare, BU’s deputy director of public safety, is in charge of sending out the messages. He said that the alert system does not necessarily reduce the crime rate, but “everyone is more aware of their surroundings” due to the alerts.
Despite the arrest of three suspects in connection with the robberies, students remain vigilant to the dangers of living in a big city.
“To be honest, I didn’t take the first robbery seriously,” Loui said. “The second one was an eye opener.”