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UVA Defends Alert Policy in Wake of Attempted Abduction - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

UVA Defends Alert Policy in Wake of Attempted Abduction

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The University of Virginia has sent an email to students, after it received criticism for not alerting students of last week's attempted abduction.

Friday night, a man attacked a 19-year-old female student who was walking along Stadium Road near Runk Dining Hall, an area that's on city property.  The woman was able to fight the man off, and immediately called 911 with a detailed description of her attacker. 

Charlottesville police arrested 26-year-old Matthew Rene Beaulieu a short time later.  He was charged with felony abduction and attempt to defile.  

Wednesday's email says that quick arrest is why UVA police didn't alert students and staff.

The email from UVA Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin says the school follows the federal Cleary Act, which outlines when students and staff should be alerted.  All three criteria from the law must be present for an alert to be sent.


Email from Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia M. Lampkin

Clarification of Communication around Criminal Activity and Reminders for Tomorrow

Dear Students:

I am writing to offer some clarification around an issue that has been the topic of discussion in recent days. This is also a good opportunity to remind you of personal safety as many of us prepare to cheer on the Cavaliers in the season's last home football game tomorrow evening, Nov. 15.

First, the issue at hand: Questions and considerable discussion have focused on the absence of communication following an incident last week in which an alleged assailant, who was arrested shortly after the incident, attempted to abduct a U.Va. student who was walking home to her residence hall. That incident occurred on city property adjacent to the University (specifically Stadium Road). Because the location of the crime fell under the jurisdiction of the city, the Charlottesville Police Department led the investigation and issued a press release to local media. University Police did not issue a mass email to students and the rest of the community because the circumstances did not meet all three criteria of the Clery Act, a federal law that applies to virtually all higher education institutions and is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. In an effort to issue communication that is effective yet does not become diluted over time, UPD seeks to apply Clery guidelines in a strict and consistent manner.

When crimes are directed toward students or other members of the University community, University Police follow a prescribed procedure under the Clery Act for communicating with the community through mass email. Clery guidelines include three criteria: 1. the crime occurred on or very close to the institution's property, 2. the crime is one of several that appear on a list published by the education department, and 3. the suspect (or suspects) is still at large and there is a continuing threat to the community. If all three criteria are present, then University Police issue a mass email to students, faculty, and staff.

As far as last week, the assailant was taken into custody early Friday morning, Nov. 9, very shortly after the incident occurred. Certain details about the assailant and this case emerged over the course of time and have been reported in this week's editions of the Cavalier Daily. The fact that the assailant had been employed with a University contractor, which was disclosed by the Cavalier Daily, ultimately would not affect the criteria used by University Police to determine whether information about the incident was communicated to the community.

At the same time, it is understandable that this incident raises concerns. While our police will continue to apply a stringent test for communication, we recognize that such incidents are of keen interest to the University community. In the future, the University will be looking at ways to present similar information in a manner that is helpful but also matched to the immediate circumstances.

More on Safety

This is a busy time of year as we head into the stretch before Thanksgiving break. A nighttime game brings special challenges and safety issues. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of making safety part of your daily routine. On special occasions such as tomorrow night, personal responsibility for safety is even more important. The game will bring heavy traffic and thousands of visitors to town. Celebrating will be on the minds of many students and visitors.

In terms of safety, whether tomorrow night or anytime, these are good basic steps to observe:

  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Even in the midst of having fun, you can develop a sixth sense about those who are around you. If you are alone, it is even more critical to keep your eyes and ears open.
  • Call 911 immediately if you see something suspicious. The police want you to do this. It's better for them to check out a situation and find nothing wrong as opposed to the reverse.
  • Get medical help for a friend if you are concerned. If the person is passed out and does not respond to a firm pinch, or vomits without waking up, call 911 immediately. Do not leave a drunken individual alone.
  • With darkness coming earlier in the evenings, plan your routes carefully. Walk in groups and along lighted pathways. Be alert at crosswalks, and press the button to activate flashing lights when they are available.
  • If you need a ride late at night, options include: SafeRide (434.242.1122), Yellow Cab (434.295.4131) or Anytime Taxi (434.977.5522). Put these numbers in your cellphone so they are always handy.

Self-Defense Training

The University Police Department offers training in self-defense and personal safety. Since January, officers have conducted more than 40 sessions for students, and additional sessions are scheduled for coming months. One session is taking place this Friday, Nov. 16, at 4 p.m. in the Green Room at Runk Dining Hall (any student may come - no registration necessary). If you would like to participate in similar sessions in the future or if you would like to schedule training for your student group, contact Officer Angela Tabler at tabler@virginia.edu. More information is available at http://www.virginia.edu/uvapolice/resources.html.

We are all committed to building a safe community. Best wishes for a safe week followed by a restful Thanksgiving break.

Sincerely,

Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Lampkin approved distribution of this message.

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