Early Sunday evening, a man knocked at the door of a Montgomery Hall dorm room. One of the six students inside answered, only for the man to force himself inside the room and brandish a handgun. A second man entered the room, and the two stole some of the students’ possessions and fled the scene.
More than 36 hours later, students across the campus finally received word of the alleged incident via a University Police safety notice. While no one was injured, at least one armed man had gained access to a university dorm with apparent ease, made off with students’ belongings and — for all we know — headed back to his own dorm or apartment. The notice made no note of the perpetrators’ affiliation with the university.
About 24 hours had gone by after the incident before the victims reported the crime to police, and at least another 12 had passed before the news made it to students’ inboxes. It’s likely that the encounter left the students in question afraid and disoriented, rendering the delay in reporting the incident a bit more understandable. After all, when was the last time a gunman forced his way into your apartment or dorm room?
More worrisome, however, is the crime’s lack of exposure via nearly all official police channels. University Police’s Facebook and Twitter accounts stayed mum on the incident — certainly the most frightening crime reported on the campus this semester, if not the entire academic year. The university’s email system eventually pushed the safety notice to students, but not all at once.
Police officials explained the delay between the department’s response and the safety notice as standard operating procedure; officers must verify information provided in initial reports and clarify it before issuing a notice to the university community.
Had the victims reported the crime to police soon after it took place, the department would have issued a more timely UMD Alert via text message and email, police spokesman Maj. Marc Limansky told The Diamondback.
“It’s not intended as a news source; it’s intended as a safety notice for people to make safe decisions,” Limansky said.
Given the nation’s tragic propensity toward school shootings, though, this editorial board feels that every on-campus incident involving a firearm warrants attention. Students deserved to know that a gunman was on the campus even if police had deemed the perpetrator no longer an immediate threat.
Police could have sketched the bare-bones details of the incident the night that they responded to the victims’ report in a manner that wouldn’t have incited a panic. Students would have appreciated the transparency, especially considering the rash of robberies — armed or otherwise — on and around the campus since the start of the semester.
With safety a rising concern over the past few weeks, students owe it to one another to report crimes in a timely fashion, and police owe it to the community to release details of potentially life-threatening incidents as soon as possible. This week, those efforts fell short.