Crime alerts: racism or reality? (II)

by Marissa Ochoa, Staff Columnist

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My phone vibrates with the most recent alert, I receive an email with the subject line reading “SDSU Crime Alert.” Random emails continually pop up from the SDSU Police Department informing the student body of any recent crimes that have happened on or near campus.

These crime alerts can range from cell phone abductions to the recently-popular sexual assault alerts.

In the beginning, I was very impressed with the convenient access of such important news. We receive emails warning us who and what type of criminals to look out for. Who wouldn’t want such a system?

It wasn’t until I started to receive more crime alerts when I started to profile only one suspect description as a dangerous criminal: an African-American male.

I agree getting an accurate description is important, but at what expense? These crime alerts are painting all African-American males as potential criminals and that’s where the problem lies.”

Constantly describing perpetrators as African-American males criminalizes all those fitting said description. In turn, anybody remotely close to the description is subject to being profiled and that’s a tremendous regression toward racism.

“I would like to say no, but in reality yeah, I probably would be subject to racial profiling if the descriptions always happen to describe something that I look like,” Spanish senior Brendan Price said. “I would continue going on everyday normally but it would be incredibly frustrating to try and dispel the notion that because I’m a certain race I’m inclined to be a criminal.”

Race is one of the first descriptors crime alerts touch on. First off, I don’t blame SDSUPD for doing its job. I blame the process of continually sending out the same type of description in crime alerts, giving African-American males a bad reputation.

“Victims provide us with descriptions in different ways each time,” SDSUPD Cpt. Joshua Mays said. “We may follow up with ‘do you remember the color of his shirt, pants, what race etc.’”

No matter the crime, in general, the descriptions of perpetrators begin with an “African-American male.”

From the beginning of 2014, 50 percent of crime alerts that have been sent out describe an African-American male as the perpetrator. In September alone, three-out-of-five crime alerts described the perpetrators as African-American as well.

There’s now this universal idea amongst SDSU students to steer clear of African-American males because according to the crime alerts, those who look that way are potential perpetrators.

The safety of a student is a priority, but there are many other factors a description can entail without having to undermine one particular race.

Biology freshman and Black Student Society Organization member Kyle Aaron believes race shouldn’t play any portion in descriptions.

“I don’t think race should play a part,” Aaron said. “Just describing their skin color would be better…and most of the crimes happen at night so you don’t know if they’re black or white. It’s dark out.”

Many students don’t understand this racial profiling because they’re not the subject. However, by taking a different perspective, one can see the damage racial profiling can have.

“Humans are intensely pattern-seeking and I’m sure I would encounter some different behavior toward myself if someone who looked like me kept on committing crimes” psychology senior Lizet Serrano said.

Crime alerts are supposed to keep SDSU students safe, but with said safety comes this installation of subliminal racial profiling into anybody that consumes these alerts.

So until crime alert descriptions are given a second look, racial profiling will always be prominent in the SDSU community.

Read Anthony Berteaux’s counter-argument.

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