Editor’s Note: It is come to our attention that there are multiple inaccuracies in the article on which this editorial is based. We are working on a correction and update, and will provide one as soon as possible.
Several news outlets recently reported that a Boston College student was allegedly raped by an Uber driver in September. Court tapes acquired by The Boston Herald revealed that Luis Baez, driving for Uber under a fake name, raped the student three times in a parking lot and at other sites before dropping her back at her dorm on campus. The student then immediately went to the Boston College Police Department station to report the incident.
BCPD chose not to notify students on the night of the crime because, at the time, the incident was believed to have taken place within the jurisdiction of the Middlesex County Police, not BCPD. In an email to The Heights, BC Chief of Police John King, executive director of public safety and chief of BCPD, stated that “several weeks after the occurrence, it was determined that the incident likely happened on or near BC property.” Despite this realization, BCPD still chose not to report the event to the student body.
The Clery Act, passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities that receive federal funding to provide yearly reports of crime that took place on or near their campuses. The law states that schools must issue “timely warnings” and “emergency notifications” when an incident occurs that falls under the Clery Act and represents a continual threat to a school community. Because BCPD believed that the alleged assault did not take place within its jurisdiction at the time of reporting, it was not liable to report the incident. After learning that the event likely took place on or near BC’s campus, however, BCPD legally should have updated its police blotter to reflect the new information in compliance with Clery Act guidelines.
Moreover, it is undeniable that BCPD had a moral and ethical responsibility to make the student body aware of the incident as soon as possible after it was reported.
The fact that the BC community found out about the incident through court tapes and in the media, and not from its public safety organization, is deplorable. BCPD has a responsibility to make students aware of potential dangers to their safety, and the circumstances surrounding the incident make the department’s failure to release a warning especially alarming.
In particular, the crime took place in an Uber vehicle, which should have indicated that the incident warranted public reporting. This popular ride-hailing app is used by many BC students every weekend, and any danger associated with the service represents a danger to the BC community.
Although the University provides transportation on the Commonwealth Ave. buses to popular off-campus destinations, such as bars in Cleveland Circle like Agoro’s and Mary Ann’s, this service stops after 2 a.m. The T now closes at 12:30 a.m. as well. Students who want to stay out later should not have to restructure their evenings around public transportation, and often must rely on Uber to return to their dorms, houses, or apartments. This is not to mention the hundreds of student outings that take place outside the range of these buses in the city of Boston and other nearby areas.
The victim was trying to return back to campus, a situation that many BC students will find themselves in on any given Friday or Saturday. What occurred next, realistically, could have happened to any member of the student body, and therefore BCPD should have released an email or text message to students alerting them to the potential threat.
Following the crime, the alleged assailant drove the student back to BC’s campus. The fact that BCPD was made aware that a sexual predator had been on University grounds and chose not to release a warning to the BC community is not only baffling, but extremely concerning.
BCPD has reported incidents to students in the past, such as a sexual assault outside of 2000 Commonwealth Ave. and an alleged assault of a woman at the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. While these events are different because they occurred within BCPD’s jurisdiction, the threat posed to student safety remains the same.
BCPD’s “Procedures for Timely Warnings of Campus Crime” states that, “It shall be the responsibility of the Director of Public Safety for the Boston College Police, when a crime on or near the campus is reported, to promptly assess the potential danger or threat it presents to the campus community, or portions thereof.” If this is truly the procedure that was used when the incident in September was reported, then BCPD and King should have come to the conclusion that the safety of the student body was in jeopardy.
In light of the information currently available, and without knowing when the perpetrator was taken into custody, perhaps the only probable reason for BCPD not to release news of the incident was fear of bad publicity. If the department did not choose to alert students on the basis that the crime was committed outside its jurisdiction, certainly it should have informed the University community after it learned that the assault was most likely carried out on or near campus.
Rape is certainly still a taboo subject in today’s society, and news of the incident most likely would have spurred alarming headlines associated with the University. But if BCPD and the University administration fail to place the safety of students above BC’s public image, then they are failing not only in their jobs, but lacking in morality as well.