A Pirate Alert issued for a robbery on Ward Place last month has turned out not to have been a crime at all.
But the report of the incident turned in by two Seton Hall students was.
“Pirate Alert! At 1am (2) SHU students were robbed between Irvington Ave and Ward Place gate. Suspects were one white and one Hispanic male. Avoid the area,” read the Pirate Alert emails and text messages sent out by Public Safety on Feb. 26.
The following day, an additional safety alert was issued revealing that after investigation done by the Department of Public Safety and the South Orange Police, the report was deemed false. The students who reported the “crime” were charged criminally.
Gary Christie, assistant director of Public Safety, said in an email that the staff was suspicious of the report from the start, but carried out their lawful agreement to alert the community since they did not have absolute proof that it was false.
“The following morning we were able to prove that the report was bogus after reviewing video and card access records, conducting interviews and coordinating our investigation with SOPD,” Christie said.
Public Safety is not allowed to disclose the names of the two students who falsely reported the crime.
“They are charged criminally with filing a false police report and they will also face charges in the Community Development disciplinary process at the University,” Christie sad. “Alcohol may have played a role in this incident as the students were at an off-campus party immediately prior to making the report. They indicated that at the party they were talking with friends about the Department of Public Safety’s competence and admitted that they filed the report ‘on a dare.’”
Christie added that incidents like this are not frequent, but they do occur about once a year.
“The most egregious case that comes to mind was the false report of a stranger-to stranger rape in a parking lot by the Recreation Center several years ago. As you can imagine, parents of our students were frantic with concern and Public Safety was vilified. It was weeks before we were permitted to openly declare the incident as a hoax,” Christie said.
Lindsey DeLorie, a junior diplomacy and modern languages major, understood why Public Safety had to send out the alert, despite being unsure of its validity.
“Either way it’s nice to be informed,” DeLorie said.
Ryan Powell, a freshman biology major, agreed with DeLorie.
“The alerts make me feel like the school is doing its best to make our stay at Seton Hall as safe as possible,” Powell said.
Alexandra Gale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org