The HUPD provides timely warnings (called “Community Advisories”) to the University community when a significant criminal incident occurs within Harvard’s Clery Geography and represents a serious or continuing threat. Decisions to disseminate a warning will be decided on a case-by-case basis in light of all the facts surrounding the crime and the continuing danger to the campus community. The purpose of the warning is to aid in the prevention of similar crimes by alerting the community about the incident and providing information on the actions people can take to diminish their chances of being victimized.
The amount and type of information presented in the warning will vary depending on the circumstances of the crime. If there is certain information that could compromise law enforcement efforts, it may be withheld from the timely warning notice. An effort will always be made to distribute a warning as soon as pertinent information is available so that the warning is a preventive tool, not solely a description of the incident.
Timely Warning Notices are typically issued for the following Uniformed Crime Reporting Program (UCR)/National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) crime classifications: major incidents of arson, aggravated assault, and murder/non-negligent manslaughter, robbery, and sex offenses. Cases of aggravated assault and sex offenses are considered on a case-by-case basis, depending on the facts of the case and the information known by the HUPD. For example, if an alleged assault occurs between two students who have a disagreement, there may be no on-going threat to other Harvard University community members and a Timely Warning Notice would not be distributed. Cases involving sexual assault are often reported long after the incident occurred, in which case there is no ability to distribute a “timely” warning notice to the community. Thus, whether to issue a Timely Warning Notice based on a reported sex offense will be determined on a case by case basis depending on when and where the incident occurred, when it was reported, and the amount of information known by HUPD. Similarly, HUPD will assess reports of property crimes and will distribute a Timely Warning Notice in the event of a pattern of crime that poses a serious or continuing threat to the community. The Chief of Police or designee reviews all reports to determine if there is an on-going threat to the community and if the distribution of a Timely Warning Notice is warranted. Timely Warnings also may be posted for other crime classifications and locations, as deemed necessary. Timely Warning Notices will be issued to students and employees in a manner that is timely, that withholds the names of the victims as confidential, and in a manner that aids in the prevention of future similar crimes.
Timely Warning Notices are typically written and distributed by staff in the Office of the Chief of Police. Harvard Public Affairs & Communications (HPAC) is also authorized to distribute Timely Warning Notices, at the discretion of the Chief of Police or designee. Timely Warning Notices are distributed to the Harvard University community via blast email. Because many members of our community travel between the Cambridge and Longwood campuses, as a courtesy, Timely Warning Notices covering a crime on one campus will be sent to both campuses.