We are met with a couple clear distinctions about profiling at VCU: One, suspicion is placed on the singled-out race and two, division is inevitable among the community at large and distracts us from effectively handling the outcomes of the crimes. Apart from these concerns, profiling can help build an identity of crime and is necessary for that reason. But if profiling is not used appropriately then we have bastardizations of it, like racial profiling, which leads to stereotyping a race.
The VCU Police Department has no set policy on profiling and neither does the university.
The university is scrambling to find a solution to the issue of crime on and near campus and all attempts to solve the problem have been effective enough, for now.
My concern, however, is with the wrongful treatment of African-American men and to further discuss this, we must delve deeper to see the complexity of the VCU PD’s response to crime on campus. Only then can we make an accurate assessment on how to handle profiling and its ugly brother, racial profiling. My judgement leads me to believe one cannot exist without the other. The solution is not to rid profiling from police use, but to minimize the use of it.
Profiling is a tool for law enforcers to build an identity of a criminal. Our community assumes a series of appropriate questions will be asked in order to build such a identity. For example, profiling is part of a behavioral science used to determine the suspect’s motive and whereabouts. It can be done through thorough questioning of a suspect’s appearance. The problem is when the questions are not asked and assumptions are made about the suspect’s appearance. From these profiles, VCU can see what crime looks like in Richmond.
Are we safer because of profiling? The invisible safety net the VCU PD has created as a means of securing the campus, including alert text messages, patrols and security cameras, has become a constant reminder of crime on campus, if word-of-mouth was not enough for us. There is no way to prevent crime from occurring and no way to properly identify the perpetrators of those crimes, but the community wants to come as close as possible to mitigate any uncertainty about VCU’s safety for comfort. Unfortunately, that is a difficult task.
There are not enough security cameras, well-lit streets or patrolling policemen to arrest our fears. Crime is pulpy, without form and exists in a variety of conditions. The appearance of the drivers of these crimes is just as fickle. Profiling can be a good tool to single out suspicious individuals.
The VCU PD has found a few temporary fixes to crime. Sending off crime alters, doing nightly patrols and installing panic buttons, has provided the community with a tighter sense of security. For some, it seems like the presence of these measures has acted as a suppressant for our immediate fears.
That is, however, the problem; It’s not that the VCU PD doesn’t serve a purpose, but they apparently are more concerned about fighting crime. They should put criminal deterrence first in our community, then focus on protecting the community.
The two are not the same. Doing both would dampen the effectiveness of either of these attempts and what would be left is a compromise of two philosophies. This is one key problem with them. VCU PD’s service is mostly in reaction to a crime alert.
Since a criminal does not have a particular appearance, a criminal could be a student or a non-student. Profiling feels redundant after a while. Racial profiling seems like a necessary evil in their minds. I’m dearly sorry to those hurt by these crime-fighting methods. Unless there is an innovation in fighting crime, racial profiling may exist for some time without slowing down.
We must be vigilant in order to ensure protection for the student body. We have seen many wrongdoings at VCU; we seek an answer and until there is an answer, we will keep asking questions.