Stay away from that area’

PirateAlert, the University’s system to inform the community by phone call, text message and e-mail, is now utilized for immediate crime notifications.

The system was first used after a Feb. 23 off-campus armed robbery of two students.

It informed the community again late Monday night after a University contractor employee was robbed at gunpoint just a few blocks east of the main gate.

In the case of a crime incident, the South Orange Police Department and the Department of Public Safety and Security will work together to disseminate the information in a timely manner, according to Patrick Linfante, director of Public Safety and Security.

“The South Orange Police Department will notify us immediately on any report that occurs in the area of campus or involves a student,” Linfante said.

In the case of an incident that is reported first to Public Safety, South Orange police will be notified first so they may gather information for a police report. According to Linfante, a PirateAlert will be sent “as soon as all facts are collected.”

“As soon as we’re notified, we will make every effort to get the information out within an hour,” Linfante said.

According to Linfante, the PirateAlert was sent approximately 28 minutes after the Feb. 23 robbery came to the attention of Public Safety; it was first reported to South Orange police around 8 p.m. that night.

The PirateAlert following Monday night’s robbery was sent approximately 45 minutes after the incident, as the victim notified Public Safety first.

Tom Giordano, assistant director of emergency management, said that there was a response rate of nearly 24 percent after Monday’s alert. Responses are recorded when message recipients press a key after the phone call or text a reply to the system.

“The more, the merrier,” Giordano said of the most ideal response rate. “Everbridge (the company that sets up PirateAlert) said that we’d be lucky with a 10 to 15 percent response rate.”

Giordano added that response rates during the daytime PirateAlert tests are “well into the 40 percent range.”

According to Linfante, student questions at a meeting after the alleged on-campus rape last semester and a U.S. Department of Education report on the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007 inspired the new use for PirateAlert.

Linfante said Public Safety worked with Dr. Laura Wankel, vice president of Student Affairs, and an advisory board to develop the idea.

The Jeanne Clery Act requires “all colleges and universities to collect and disclose information about crime on and around campus property.” According to Linfante, this means contiguous (connected) property to campus and University owned property further away, such as Ora Manor and St. Andrew’s Hall, the University seminary.

Despite this, Linfante said they are interested in anything that involves students both within the Clery Act specifications and beyond.

Both Linfante and Giordano said letters have been sent to local police departments requesting immediate notice of crimes involving students for the system to be used quickly.

“We want to know anything that involves students in South Orange,” Linfante said. “We certainly want to know any crime within a half-mile radius. But we’re also interested in places that students frequent.”

Linfante also said Public Safety will gauge the immediate danger to students upon notification of a crime.

“If it’s something of a nature that will not impact students, we will not put out a PirateAlert at 2 a.m.,” Linfante said. “The information will go out, but if the danger has passed, we will not wake everybody up.”

According to Linfante, there have been no leads regarding the suspect in Monday night’s robbery. He also declined to comment on which contractor the University employee was from, but he said the individual was on his way to work at the time of the incident.

On-campus contracted vendors include Gourmet Dining Services, Securitas Security and Temco housekeeping, according to a vendor list on the University’s web site.

Linfante said he has heard “nothing negative” about the new PirateAlert feature, and “no one has complained about receiving them.”

However, he said Public Safety is always open to feedback regarding the new feature and encourages anyone with comments to contact his office.

Brian Wisowaty can be reached at

Jessica Sutcliffe can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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