In 2004, Florida A&M University’s Police Department had reports of two rapes, four robberies, nine assaults and 41 burglaries. Students who don’t keep up with FAMU crime statistics may not have known about these crimes even if they happened next door.
FAMU PD disseminates information about campus crime through the University’s office of Public Affairs. Because the office handles all University announcements and news, they only write releases for reoccurring crimes.
“If you have one case of vandalism, then they (the police department) wouldn’t tell me about it,” said LaNedra Carroll, the University’s director of public affairs. “However, if there is a string of vandalisms that seem related, then the police department will notify me.”
Other Tallahassee police stations have specific officers called public information officers who are specifically responsible for writing releases and getting out information about crimes to the media to distribute.
“If anything that comes out of this department would be of interest to news people or the students then they would have to get that information from LaNedra Carroll,” said Lt. Angela Kirkland for FAMU PD Patrol.
Carroll said that she is the only public information officer for the University, so she is currently working with the provost, deans and vice president to forward newsworthy information so the University can keep the flow of communication going.
Although FAMU PD lacks an official PIO, Lt. Louis Wichers said the department uses various methods to inform the public about on campus crime.
“We are a small department-we don’t have the luxury of assigning one person as a PIO,” Wichers said. Instead, he said members of FAMU PD “multi-task” and depending on the circumstance, the Chief will designate certain officers to speak to the media/public.
Wichers said because the department wants to inform the public of certain crimes to ensure safety, they will sometimes directly contact the media to release information in addition to using the University department of public affairs.
But in certain instances, the department cannot release all information because a leak may hurt an ongoing investigation. Wichers said in some past cases that were resolved successfully, the department had to keep vital information in house.
Carroll said the current system is not faulty, but she doesn’t object to the hiring of a PIO for FAMU PD.
“If the police chief designated a person, I would welcome that, but it is working informally right now,” Carroll said.
Carroll explained that the police department investigators unit generally gives her information to put into releases. Since details of crimes under investigation are not available to the public, officers do not generally notify her about crimes when they are originally reported.
Although the department uses various methods to inform the public about crime on FAMU’s campus, many students are still unaware of the University’s crime rates.
Dominique Drake, 21, a fourth year business administration student from Cleveland, said an official FAMU PD PIO could be beneficial.
“I think students need to know and they need a person to funnel and gather that information and distribute it so that they can be aware of what’s going on,” Drake said. “And by letting the students know about the crimes, initiatives and programs could be started to help prevent the crimes.”
K’Asha Franklin, a junior elementary education student from Washington agreed.
“It’s dangerous not to get the information out, especially for freshmen who are walking from the cafÃ©’ to the dorms.”
Contact Robbyn Mitchell and Ebonie Ledbetter at firstname.lastname@example.org