The Hot Prowl
On January 8th, the Stanford Police released to the campus a mass email/text with the subject line “Hot Prowl.” The message read, “Three unidentified males entered an unlocked and occupied room at Grove Mayfield. The occupant, a female, awoke when she heard noises in her room. She saw the three men and screamed. The suspects fled in an unknown direction.”
Across campus, reactions to the message’s title were varied. Some thought the police were attempting to be funny and others even thought “hot prowl” was a reference to a porn website. In reality, “hot prowl” is a term used amongst police for that type of crime.
“It’s police jargon,” said Sergeant Del Bandy. “We should have been a little more discrepant so people would understand what it is. A hot prowler is someone entering into an occupied student dorm. Whoever [used the subject line] wanted to get the information out into the student community.”
After the email/text was sent, different fraternities and row houses sought to host parties with hot prowl themes. In an email sent to row house management staffs, Residential Education strongly discouraged such party themes.
Therefore, some of the fraternities and row houses hosted parties whose themes played on the phrase and connotations of “Hot Prowl.” Theta Delt hosted “Hot Towel” and Chi Theta Chi hosted “Hot Owl.” Additionally, one band on campus even renamed itself Hot Prowl.
“I feel students did not take it seriously at all. They thought it was a joke. They didn’t feel that they were threatened. Maybe its because students feel safe at Stanford,” Alejandra Mesa ’14 commented.
At one of the Hot Prowl-themed parties, students were reportedly greeted by a white van with “Free Candy” written on it. Another sign hung near the front door reading “Tryna Prowl?”
But whether students’ levity regarding the incident was a problem is up for debate. “The response of the university to it was kind of cool,” expressed Deputy Allen James. “From the police standpoint, it raised awareness. I think Stanford showed its true colors by taking it and not being freaked out and having a hot prowl party [instead].”
Connecting Cops and Campus
Despite the recent incidents on campus involving assault and theft, crime is not actually increasing. Instead, awareness is increasing.
The Stanford Police Department is now raising awareness through the use of email and text alerts.
“We are notifying the community more about crime trends. We are being more proactive,” said James. “We are trying to find that balance.
“We are still working on it, but absolutely crime has not increased. But we have a difference in reportings. It would be unconscionable for us to know that this type of a crime is occurring and not let [the community] know. We want to raise your awareness of it because the more aware you are about it, the safer you will be.”
On February 10th, a forum called Bridging the Gap was held in El Centro Chicano. Students had the opportunity to discuss topics such as campus safety, racial profiling, reasons for working in the police department, and catching “crooks” with members of the Stanford Police Department. Students were encouraged to ride along with a deputy for a day to see how people react to deputies.
The goal of the event was to allow students to see the world from the perspective of a deputy.
“There is a disconnect between what we do and…what the community believes that we do,” Deputy James stated. “I don’t know that we will ever have a one hundred percent understanding. We try to be as totally transparent as we can be. We don’t have anything to hide. We are just enforcing the laws.”
For the past four years, the Stanford Police have also been meeting with the Resident Advisors and dorms to give presentations about safety on campus as another form of community outreach.
“We want everyone to know that we don’t come to arrest people. We don’t want people to be afraid when one of their friends needs help. We need to get the word out there. We need to foster the trust in the community,” James commented.
Many students, however, do not feel comfortable around the police.
“I don’t see the police often. I only see them on party nights. I feel that when they are around, I feel scared or nervous about getting in trouble, even when I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m sure they are there for safety, but students feel nervous around them” Mesa noted.
This thinking among students is the reason why the Stanford Police Department has been making a big effort to bridge the gap between the police and students.
“We want to put out an invite to people who want to get in touch with the police department. Any of us will sit down and talk to you.” James added, “You can talk to anyone, including the chief of police.”