News

Crime and Incident

As readers may have noticed in The Tartan this semester, our historically popular ?Crime & Incident? police blotter has been diminishing in size and quality. The Tartan offers this space to Campus Police as a way to inform its readership of important incidents they need to know about. The piece has also usually entertained its readers
There are several problems in reporting the occasionally sensitive information contained in the incident report; agreements between Campus Police and The Tartan have limited which members of our staff may see the reports and what information can be reprinted. Subjects? names are not printed unless they were given a citation from the city or state, or they are notable members of the campus community. Unfortunately, in such a small community as ours, information given in the reports was considered by many to point obviously to unnamed subjects.
As with any submission to The Tartan, printing depends on several criteria. One is that the piece is relevant to our readers. A second requires that we not compromise sources. The classic problem with reports such as ?Crime & Incident? is weighing the needs and rights of the community to be informed with the fair privacy rights afforded every individual, including those reported on by the police.
The ?Crime & Incident? report is supposed to inform the student body in order to keep it safe from repeat events. The column, with detailed descriptions of events, informed students of safety problems on campus, while the entertaining nature kept them reading it weekly. From a journalistic standpoint, the needs of the community had outweighed the privacy rights.
Earlier this year, Campus Police amended its policy on dealing with media on campus and in Pittsburgh. Where The Tartan had once been given full reports ? naturally with overly sensitive information blacked out ? it was decided that this compromised the rights of the subjects of the reports. Under the new policy, all media, not only The Tartan, have access only to abbreviated reports containing the nature of an incident, time and date, location, and, for many incidents, a one-sentence summary.
These new reports have made it impossible for The Tartan to produce a blotter of the quality our readers expect. The shorter reports omit information key both to fulfilling the safety objective of the piece and to narrating successfully the story that keeps students reading.
This past week, a member of The Tartan?s staff was dispatched to the Old Student Center to retrieve the report and was told that it had not been compiled and would not be ready for today?s paper. The Tartan was told at the beginning of the semester that an advantage of the new system was online availablity of reports to media around Pittsburgh. This has not been implemented. The Tartan applauds the service the police provide campus, and it would be remiss to imply otherwise, but without complete and timely information from our colleagues, we cannot continue to publish a crime and incident report for our readers.
The Tartan has not yet decided how to use this space on ?Page 2,? but readers can look forward to interesting replacements as concepts for the space take shape. The Tartan hopes that policy will change to allow us access to the information our readers need, and looks forward to resolving the issue with Campus Police to bring improved incident reports to our readers in future issues.