Police at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the City of Boulder want anyone who is the victim of a crime, on campus or off, or who encounters suspicious activity to feel comfortable reporting such incidents immediately without fear that their names will appear in published news reports.
The issue of crime reporting arose when a third-party witness reported an assault of a woman on campus Jan. 19 and called CU Police even though the victim had not filed a report. After sketchy details of the assault were reported in the news media, the woman filed a report with CU Police, according to Sgt. Brett Brough.
We absolutely understand peoples hesitancy when it comes to reporting crimes in which they are the victim, Brough said. But its vitally important to our ability to solve crimes and to apprehend criminals to get reports from the public, and in most cases the victims names never get published, he said.
According to Brough, victims names are always withheld from the news media by CU Police in initial police reports of violent crime. Names are only released in the later stages of a case as it is being prosecuted. Even at that stage, the victims name often is not published by the news media.
Even when the victims name does finally become a part of the public record, often the press will not publicize the name, Brough said, though absolute anonymity cannot be guaranteed.
According to Kris Gibson, director of Victim Services for the Boulder Police Department, law enforcement officials want the media to work with us and to cooperate in ways that will not result in re-victimization of victims, through repeated publicity of certain crimes. Withholding victims names in reports of violent crimes is essential in that effort, she said.
As a result of a safety meeting last week with representatives of the Think, Plan and Be Safe campaign, Gibson said the Boulder Police Department is reinforcing its on-going effort to keep victims names out of violent crime reports.
We have asked our officers who are writing up violent crime reports to heighten their use of procedures already in place to protect victim anonymity to the best of our ability, Gibson said. Records staff were also reminded of the DO NOT RELEASE procedures, of the importance of this to victims and the current relevance to Susannahs (Chase) murder and more recent assaults.
The issue is of heightened importance now because of the ongoing police investigation into the Dec. 21 beating of CU student Susannah Chase. In the Jan. 19 assault, the victim said she did not report the assault immediately because she feared her name would be made public, according to Brough.
Weve heard from others also that fear of publicity might deter them from reporting an incident to the police, Brough said. But since CU Police do not routinely release victims names in violent crimes, in most cases the victims name is never publicized, he said.
Police depend on victims reports for several reasons to help solve crimes. Victims reports are particularly important in cases of violent crimes by unknown assailants, like the Susannah Chase investigation, in which one person could be responsible for several crimes.
Victims reports help police in several ways, Brough said: they alert police to locations where crimes are occurring; they help to alert the public about possible dangers or areas to avoid; published reports may spur calls from witnesses who have valuable information for police; the report may provide clues that help police identify perpetrators of the reported crime and other crimes; and reports help police determine where to focus police resources to solve crimes.
If victims choose not to contact police to make a report, or if they have questions or concerns about reporting a crime, Brough said they should at least contact the Office of Victim Assistance for counseling to help them deal with the aftermath of the incident at 492-8855. For incidents in the city, victims should call Victim Services at the Boulder Police Department at 441-3332.
For more information about reporting criminal activity on or near the CU-Boulder campus, call 492-6666 or to contact Boulder Police call 441-4444. In all emergency cases call 911.