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After Boylan Heights incident, Student Council discusses community alert system

Student Council will consider using the LiveSafe app as potential solution to concerns

<p>Sarah Kenny, a fourth-year College Student and Student Council President, reflected on why there was not an alert issued to students following the Boylan incident at Tuesday night's meeting.</p>

Sarah Kenny, a fourth-year College Student and Student Council President, reflected on why there was not an alert issued to students following the Boylan incident at Tuesday night's meeting.

The University Student Council discussed student concerns at their meeting Tuesday about an incident at Boylan Heights on the Corner this past weekend, where a man reportedly displayed a firearm after being prevented from re-entering the bar early Sunday morning. 

One of the issues raised at the meeting was that the University did not notify the student body when the incident took place. 

University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn said in a previous email to The Cavalier Daily that U.Va. did not issue an alert to students as Charlottesville Police resolved the situation. 

“Charlottesville Police cleared the incident within several minutes,” de Bruyn said. “Given the quick law enforcement response, and as there was no ongoing threat to public safety, a Community Alert was not issued.” 

The University’s statement was called into question by several students speaking on the speed of the police officials’ response to the incident.

Lukas Pietrzrak, a third-year College student and representative, questioned the lack of response by the University to the incident. 

“Eye-witness accounts accounts have been that the person who had the firearm left the scene before the police even arrived,” Pietrzrak said. “So I’m a bit concerned with what the University declares a cleared situation, when the person with the gun was no longer there when [the police] arrived.”

In response to student concerns, Sarah Kenny, a fourth-year College Student and Student Council president, noted why an alert was not issued to students.

“The reason we did not receive an alert, Boylan — although it is frequented by mostly university students — lies outside of the University-owned-and-operated spaces that the Clery [Act] guidelines [say] are the regulatory parameters for any sort of University-wide notification,” Kenny said. “I was quite concerned because I was not aware of this incident [and] Dean [Allen] Groves was not aware of this incident.” 

Taylor Overton, a second-year College student and co-chair of the Student Council Safety and Wellness Committee, said in a statement read by Liam Wolf — a fourth-year Engineering School student and chief of cabinet for Student Council — that the Clery Act dictates when the University can issue alerts and notifications. 

“The Clery Act legally restricts when U.Va. can and cannot use the U.Va. Alerts notification system,” Overton said in the statement. “Legally, U.Va. is only allowed to send out alerts if a situation occurs within the legal boundaries of Grounds.”

Although Boylan lies outside the legal boundaries of Grounds, Pietrzrak said that there have been alerts concerning incidents on the Corner in the past.

“If there was, let’s say, a student was attacked, or there was an altercation involving a student and the police were contacted and there was an ongoing threat, then that meets a different level of concern that they would alert the students on,” Kenny said. 

Wolf said a potential solution to the to the concerns expressed by Pietrzrak would be the use of the LiveSafe app. 

“The LiveSafe app is essentially going to be a solution to a problem such as this, where the Clery Act wouldn’t necessarily apply,” Wolf said. “But among many other great features, LiveSafe has a Geofencing notification system, that means that the University could draw a Geofence or a line around a certain area and students would then receive notifications pertaining to that location if they are within that boundary.” 

The use of the LiveSafe app was first considered by Student Council’s Committee on Safety and Wellness in cooperation with the University Police Department and the Office for Safety and Emergency Preparedness in the wake of the deadly events of Aug. 11 and 12 in Charlottesville. The committee was formed after students criticized the University for failing to utilize its alert system to notify students of the violence. 

Although the app is not yet accessible to students, further discussion among University officials will take place to determine when it will be ready for use.