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Timely Warnings

What is a timely warning, and why is one issued?
Timely warning is a communication that Hope College issues when a criminal incident occurs on or near campus that represents a serious and continuing threat to the person and well-being of students and employees. Timely warnings are required by the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, often called “The Clery Act.” The intent of a Clery timely warning is to aid in the prevention of similar crimes by alerting the campus community and thereby enabling community members to take necessary precautions.

What incidents warrant timely warnings?
The Clery Act requires higher education institutions to report statistics on certain crimes, which are referred to as "Clery Act crimes." A timely warning is issued when the college determines that a Clery Act crime has been committed and presents a serious or continuing threat to the campus community. Examples include:
  • Criminal homicide
  • Sex offenses
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Burglaries (occupied rooms/offices/structures)
  • Hate crimes
  • Persons with weapons with intent to use
  • Threat of violent crime
  • Situations where suspect is not known
  • Assault (physical or sexual)
For a timely warning to be issued, the crime must have been reported to a campus security authority — such as Campus Safety, or an official with significant responsibility for student and campus activities such as the dean of students — or local police. It also must have occurred on campus, on immediately accessible public property or at a college-affiliated location.

How do you decide when to issue a Clery timely notice?
Decisions to issue a timely warning are 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 Clery Act does not define what is “timely.” The college issues warnings promptly, as soon as clear, pertinent information is available so that members of the campus community may take precautionary measures.

What kind of information is included in the timely warning?
Generally, the warning will specify the type of crime reported, the time and location at which the crime occurred, and specific advice to the campus community regarding steps to take to avoid becoming a victim. If the suspect has not been identified, the warning also will include a description of the suspect(s), based on police reports.

Why aren't more details shared in the timely warning?
After an incident, we often get requests to share more about what happened. The purpose of a timely warning is to provide information that will allow members of the campus community to make informed decisions about ensuring personal safety. To protect all those involved in the case, we share only as many details as are needed to promote safety. Often, the incident will be an open police investigation. As a matter of policy, the college does not comment or share details about a case under active investigation.

In what cases would the college not issue a timely warning?
Crimes that would otherwise be reportable but are reported to a licensed mental health counselor or pastoral counselor — in the context of a privileged (confidential) communication — are not subject to the timely warning requirement. A warning will not be issued if an incident has occurred but the threat has been removed. If, for example, a Clery Act crime has been committed and the suspect has been taken into custody, the college need not issue a timely warning; in such a case, however, the college may still choose to issue a communication in an effort to broaden awareness or dispel inaccurate rumors.

Why do you issue safety tips at the end of the email? Sometimes it seems like victim-blaming.
We never wish to imply that the victim is at fault, and we aim to use language that reinforces this. Because the goal of a Clery timely warning is to promote safety, we will typically include safety tips in the communication. Prioritizing one's personal safety is always a good idea. Risk of attack by a stranger may be reduced by:
  • Being aware of your surroundings and looking assertive
  • Using the buddy system, and walking with a trusted friend or coworker, especially after dark
  • Trusting your intuition — if a particular situation makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, choose an alternative
  • Utilizing campus transportation resources
  • Using a blue light emergency phone or calling 911 from any phone if you feel threatened on campus.
What can I do to help?
Follow the tips listed above, and call Campus Safety (616.395.7770) or 911 if you see anything suspicious. Be an active bystander! See something? Do something. If you see a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or raises a “red flag,” consider the following options to safely intervene:
  • Direct: If it is safe to do so, directly confront the situation by checking in, asking if everything is okay, or stating that you feel uncomfortable with what’s happening.
  • Distract: Do something to distract those involved in the situation. This can diffuse the situation, reduce risk of anything bad happening, and give you time to follow up and make sure everything is okay.
  • Delegate: Get others involved. This can be getting a close friend to help you, finding an RA, contacting Campus Safety at 616.395.7770 or calling 911.
It seems like we're hearing more about incidents on campus. What's going on?
The Clery Act requirements have not changed recently. Thanks to better prevention training and a broad national conversation about sexual assault, there is increased awareness about Clery Act crimes. At Hope College, we also have strengthened bystander intervention training for students. These factors may result in increased reporting of crimes, and increased reporting potentially leads to increased timely warnings, which we hope are helpful in preventing crime and promoting public safety. We realize that increased communication can also generate heightened anxiety on campus, but this is not our intent. Rather, we wish to empower the campus community with information. The incidents communicated to the campus in recent days are not related. We have confidence that the Holland Police Department has handled, and continues to handle, these cases well.

You may have noticed one change: This month, we added an introductory paragraph to our timely warnings, which includes language about the Clery Act. This addition of this information may cause the messages to look different, even though the remaining content includes the same kind of details as previous emails.

The timely warnings have triggered a personal need for support. What can I do?
If at any time you feel you need support on a confidential basis, resources are available. A number of trained individuals on campus can speak with you confidentially with no obligation to file a report with the Title IX Coordinator or Campus Safety. They will not share your information unless you ask them to do so. They are available to listen, offer support, discuss options and connect you to other resources. These on-campus Confidential Resources include:
In addition, the following off-campus resource is available: Center for Women in Transition, 411 Butternut Drive, Holland, MI 49424; 24-Hour confidential support via their crisis line: 616.392.1970