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University stops including race in crime alerts, won’t say if it plans to study its effects

Public university stopped including race in its advisories

The University of Illinois at Chicago ended its practice of providing a suspect’s “race, ethnicity or national origin as a descriptor in public safety advisories,” in January 2021, according to an email from the university published by Young America’s Foundation.

Four months later the university’s top law enforcement official said it has not harmed policing, but there appears to be no actual studies on the effectiveness.

The new policy “will not impact our operations and our ability to apprehend perpetrators of criminal acts along with their prevention and deterrence of crime on the UIC campus,” Kevin Booker, the chief of police for the public university, said in an email to The College Fix.

However, the ban on the descriptors is not absolute.

The police “will include [descriptors] if, given the totality of the circumstances, they can enhance immediate public safety and/or include differentiating characteristics,” Booker said. “Also, all available identifiable information is collected in our police reports.”

He said the alerts “are not specifically intended to serve as a reporting tool for suspect sightings” but “to inform our community members so they can change their behavior” in order “to be conducive to the recommended safety measures in the UIC campus area.”

Booker did not answer a question about if the department could provide or would conduct any studies of the policy’s effectiveness. Nor did university spokesperson Sherri Gonzalez respond to similar questions from The Fix.

“The decision is a proactive progressive measure balancing public safety with the potential negative perpetuation of stereotypes,” Gonzalez told YAF.

She echoed Booker’s comments and said that it is “not expected that this decision will have an impact on UIC Police Department operations and the ability to apprehend perpetrators of criminal acts.”

Criminology department doesn’t appear to have plans to study the new policy

The university’s Department of Criminology, Law and Justice does not appear to have plans to conduct research, either.

“I do not plan to study it myself because it is not my area of expertise,” Liat Ben-Moshe, the acting graduate director of the department, told The College Fix via email, though she said it was an “an interesting empirical question.”

Ben-Moshe copied her colleague, Professor William McCarty, into the email.

McCarty said he would be interested in discussing the reasons for the need of the university to adopt this change but never responded any further to The Fix.

Two other professors in the department, Jessica Bird and Lisa Frohmann, did not respond to emailed requests for comment on potential research from The College Fix sent in the past two weeks.

The Fix emailed John Catanzara, the head of the Chicago police officer union, to ask for comment on the policy, but did not receive a response.

Look out for a ‘male’ fondling students

A Fix review of the public safety advisories since the new policy has been implemented showed a number of instances that appear to be similar in detail, though it is not clear if the same perpetrators are committing the acts.

For example, on April 1, “UIC Police received a report that a fondling occurred at 300 S. State St. at approximately 2 p.m.”

The victim reported the suspect as a “male, approximately 35-40 years of age, with average height, medium build, brown eyes, and a short black beard.”

Just three weeks later and a few blocks away, a “male, approximately 40-50 years old, 5’8″, medium build, a small beard containing some gray hair,” allegedly fondled a student.

Other universities may implement similar policies.

A recent resolution from Cornell University’s Faculty Senate demanded the school stop using race in its crime alerts.

MORE: Student paper angry university sent out crime alert for black suspect

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About the Author
Christian Lubke -- Carthage College