UNIVERSITY PARK — People signed up for text alerts from Penn State received a message at 1:32 a.m. Tuesday warning them of an important criminal event that had occurred.
The message told the PSUTXT subscribers — including all students, faculty, employees and anyone else who had signed up at the university’s website — that Penn State police were actively investigating a report of sexual assault at the Nittany Apartments on campus.
According to police, a student was attacked between midnight and 2 a.m. Saturday by a known man. Police did not specify the gender of the victim.
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the timing of the text was entirely related to the timing of the police report, not the crime itself.
“Our police send the timely alerts when they are notified of the crime,” she said. “The text went out as close as possible to the time the assault was reported to our police. The alleged assault was not reported at the time it occurred, but just before the text was issued. In cases of alleged sexual assault, there is often a lag time from when the incident has been reported to occur and the actual reporting. I am told that it is not uncommon to have an alleged victim come forward a day or two later.”
The crime is still being investigated and police are seeking information from potential witnesses. Anyone with information may call 863-1111 or visit www.police.psu.edu and click on “Report A Crime.”
Penn State released a statement Tuesday explaining that those signed up for the messages “may see an increase in the number of text and email alerts they receive in the coming months. In an effort to more closely match the guidelines of the federal Clery Act, police plan to issue all timely warnings via PSUTXT.”
The Clery Act requires that universities issue timely warnings to inform the public of any reported crime on or near campus, especially in the case of an ongoing threat.
“Text-messaging is a fast, effective platform that is a critical piece of our emergency communications plans,” Steve Shelow, assistant vice president for police and public safety at Penn State, said in a news release. “In addition to PSUTXT, we are pursuing options for the delivery of timely warnings and other emergency messages to all students, faculty and staff at their Penn State email addresses. To further strengthen our alignment with federal guidelines, we need systems that will reach as much of the campus community as possible, so that people can make informed decisions about their own safety.”
The university said there are 142,000 people signed up as of Tuesday for PSUTXT, which is operated through an outside vendor. To register, visit http://psutxt.psu.edu.