Advancing a culture of safety, awareness, and support at Virginia Tech through Timely Warnings
At the start of each semester, Virginia Tech shares the following information around timely warnings, the “Crime Alert” and “Situational Awareness Alert" emails sent to the university community. Also included below is information on the Clery Act and other support resources available to all Hokies.
Virginia Tech strives to enhance safety and security for all those who learn, work, and innovate at the university.
Providing students and employees with timely access to critical campus crime and safety information is just one example of how Virginia Tech strives to achieve this mission. It is also required under the Clery Act.
What is the Clery Act?
The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act, obligates all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to:
1. Record and publish campus crime statistics. Specifically:
A public annual security report with campus crime statistics for the preceding three calendar years.
2. Disseminate critical safety information through:
Deployment of Timely Warnings for any Clery Act designated crimes that could present an ongoing threat to the safety and wellbeing of the campus community. At Virginia Tech, these are the Crime Alert and Situational Awareness emails sent by the Virginia Tech Police Department.
Deployment of Emergency Notifications. In the event of an immediate significant danger to the health or safety of the university (e.g. severe weather, bomb threat, disease outbreak), campus officials may issue an Emergency Notification. These have wider implications than Timely Warnings. At Virginia Tech, they are the VT Alerts sent across a multitude of communication channels.
3. Circulate policies and practices around reporting crimes, safety and security, rights and responsibilities of the university community, and more.
What is included in a Timely Warning?
When a Clery Act crime occurs on a Virginia Tech campus or property, university leaders will assess on a case-by-case basis whether it is a serious or ongoing threat to the safety and well-being of the campus community.
Examples of such crimes are aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, and sexual assaults, which includes the categories of rape, fondling, statuatory rape and incest.
Considerations include the nature of the crime, level of a continuing threat, and whether law enforcement efforts would be compromised by the notification. As soon as enough pertinent details are available, a Timely Warning is issued.
Crimes that are not released as a Timely Warning are still available for public viewing on the Daily Crime Logs.
Timely Warning structure and resources
The Timely Warning email subject line will include “Crime Alert” or “Situational Awareness Alert.” Crime Alert is reserved for Clery Act reportable offenses while Situational Awareness is used for non-Clery Act offenses. For sexual assault alerts, “Content Warning” is also included.
The beginning of the email contains a brief description of the crime, date, and location of the crime, and other relevant details. The opening description is not intended to be a full account of the incident. Information disclosed here is limited to protect the identity, privacy, and rights of the survivors.
The following paragraph describes next steps after an incident is reported. Virginia Tech Police officers and Virginia Tech’s Title IX office are available to assist survivors navigate the process for documenting and investigating the crime. They are also available to answer any questions or help access assistance from another jurisdiction if a crime has occurred elsewhere.
Included next are resources for finding contact information for safety and support resources available to all members of the Virginia Tech community. These resources are a required component of the Timely Warning and may not directly relate to the specific crime covered within the alert.
These resources include Safe at VT, Women’s Center at Virginia Tech, Cook Counseling Center, Title IX Coordinator Katie Polidoro, Dean of Students Office, Virginia Tech Police Department, and Women’s Resource Center of the NRV.
These units work to deliver support and education in areas like dating and domestic violence prevention, addressing the campus culture around sexual harassment and violence, Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.), and trauma-informed support and advocacy. These organizations partner closely to best support university community members.
Following is a One Community statement that acknowledges the prevalence of sexual violence in underrepresented populations and the crime’s underreported nature. Sexual violence affects every population regardless of age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Virginia Tech and the Virginia Tech Police Department are committed to enhancing and ensuring the safety and quality of life for our community members. Contact information for the Cultural and Community Centers is also provided.
The email is concluded with personal safety and prevention tips that encourage individuals to be active bystanders, seek consent in sexual partners, and resources for defense training offered by the Virginia Tech Police Department. Resources for sexual violence prevention at Virginia Tech through Hokie Wellness are also provided. Questions about sexual violence prevention can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 231-4889. Sexual violence prevention workshops are offered by the university and can be scheduled online.
How do Timely Warnings help make Virginia Tech safer?
Even the most extensive safety and security initiatives and educational efforts cannot succeed without the awareness and cooperation of the community.
This is where Timely Warnings play a key role, according to Virginia Tech Police Chief Mac Babb.
“Timely Warnings are a critical tool in the university’s safety and crime prevention efforts," Babb said. "Along with providing a platform to deliver alerts around ongoing safety threats, they often empower victims to come forward and individuals to report similar crimes or incidents. Equally important, Timely Warnings help lift up the many outstanding support resources available to all Hokies.”
“As part of the Virginia Tech community, we all can play a role in building a culture that protects against harassment and violence,” said Katie Polidoro, director of Title IX compliance and Title IX coordinator.
“Timely Warning emails are often a difficult reminder that violence happens on our campus," Polidoro said. "The new content of these notices helps us reaffirm our commitment to build a safer, more inclusive culture— from reporting something that doesn’t feel right, to supporting a friend who has experienced violence.”
Additional questions around the Clery Act and Timely Warnings can be directed to Virginia Tech Police at email@example.com.