The University of Nebraska at Omaha is a place of innovation, discovery and learning, and the thousands of students and faculty who call UNO home should feel safe as they live, learn and work on campus. Unfortunately, even at a relatively safe campus like UNO, horrible things do happen.
On Aug. 30 at 1:40 p.m., UNO’s Department of Public Safety released a timely alert stating that the department assisted Omaha Police with a reported sexual assault that occurred the previous night at approximately 10:30 p.m. Also on Aug. 30, the department issued another timely alert at 6:47 p.m. concerning three counts of indecent exposure occurring between 10:25 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. committed by a white male in his early twenties driving a 2017 Grey Hyundai Elantra with in-transit plates.
The Department of Public Safety is required by the Clery Act to release timely warnings of crimes that may represent a serious or ongoing threat to the safety of students or employees. Though the timely alerts aren’t always timely.
Assistant Director of Public Safety Mike Murphy came to UNO as an Omaha Police Officer on loan to the university in 2013, and has been working to keep the campus safe ever since. Murphy said a lot of changes took place in transitioning the security department to a police department, and there are currently 24 security officers and five armed police officers employed by the Department of Public Safety.
Murphy said that there could be multiple reasons for the time gap that occasionally occurs between when a crime is reported and when a warning is sent out.
“Also, additional follow-up investigation may delay the release,” Murphy said. “Information has to be verified through witness and victim interviews and viewing camera footage and other evidence items, to ensure the information being released if factual.”
Taking the time to ensure the information being released is factual is understandable, but for the warning to be timely it should not take several hours to reach students.
Despite the constant presence of security officers on campus, there’s no way for them to be everywhere at once. Murphy encourages students to call public safety, if anyone on campus sees something that they feel is suspicious they shouldn’t be afraid to call. Their emergency number is (402) 554-2911 and non-emergencies can be called in at (402) 554-2648.
“It could be something very serious, and by calling they could be preventing a crime from occurring,” Murphy said. “It’s important for a student or faculty member to not have the mindset that someone else will report an incident, because the next person to walk by might think the same thing.”
Murphy also encourages people to be aware of their surroundings and to walk in groups of two or more, especially when it’s dark out. He also stresses that public safety is always available to escort anyone who feels unsafe walking alone on campus or to their car.
“We always want to make sure student, faculty and visitor’s safety is top priority,” Murphy said.