Opinion: The 4 a.m. wake up call

If you, like me, have a phone, then you probably woke up to a call at 4 a.m. last Monday morning.

This wasn’t a call from a drunken friend looking for a ride home; no this was from campus police alerting you about an assault that happened in a parking lot near Alder and 18th Avenue. If you went back to bed like I did, you probably woke up to another call at 7 a.m.

If you checked Yik Yak, a user anonymous social media app, when you woke up, you probably saw the droves of posters worried they would be attacked next. If you scrolled further and further down, you probably saw posters arguing over whether or not this was a big deal.

If you were paying attention though, you definitely saw Central’s Emergency Notification System (ENS) work.

Central’s ENS is like many other colleges’ systems across the country – it is intended to alert students (and their family), faculty and staff of emergency situations around campus. Usually, these come in the form of tests, scheduled a few times a year to dust off the cobwebs.

Last Monday though, a legitimate threat happened and ENS did what it was made to do. At approximately 4 a.m. Monday morning, a “white male of average height and build with short, light brown hair and sideburns that run to the bottom of his earlobes” – according to the police description – attacked a man with a knife.

While both the assailant and victim are still not identified, what sets this case apart from other assaults that have happened near campus was the victim used the blue light emergency phone.

If he had simply used his cell phone to the call the police, you and I may not have ever heard of this, except as an anecdote you tell your friends in passing.

According to Ellensburg Police Department’s 2014 Annual Report, only four “assaults with other weapon” happened within city limits – up from two the year before. As you can see, Ellensburg isn’t an unsafe place by any stretch of the imagination.

You’d be more pressed to be the victim of a robbery, property crime or domestic altercation than a victim of a random assault.

Also found within the same report, while violent crime has hovered around 30 incidents a year since 2001, all other forms of crime are on a steady decline.

According to seattle.gov, the number of aggravated assaults in Seattle for the month of Jan. 2014 was 321.

Granted, the population is much higher, but for a city that is widely regarded as having one of the lowest crime rates in the country, even Seattle looks like the worst parts of Detroit compared to Ellensburg.

Either the police here are amazing or Ellensburg is just that boring. Could be both.

So why then were so many students worried they would be next on the lunatic’s crime spree through north Ellensburg? If you talked to people after the attacks in class, you would assume they rented a room in the parking lot, with their apartment the obvious next stop.

I assume it’s just nerves – the thought of something happening so close and being so widely reported is kind of terrifying. How many times does a phone call come in at 4 a.m. alerting you that someone is on the loose and to stay indoors?

If you’re from a big city, the only crime you hear about is on the news or from someone you know, long after the fact. Rarely ever do you get a glimpse into the process of investigating or a phone call from the police warning of caution.

But students got just that and in the dead of the night too. I’m sure if you asked every student here if they would rather be kept in the dark instead of receiving a call at 4 a.m. they would tell you no – people need to know.

And that’s just what the ENS did and hats off to it. It’s not everyday a service here works at Central the exact way it was intended.

I for one commend it and the dutiful work the Ellensburg and campus police department did to inform the public and work to right an awful wrong.

Now about all of those parking tickets…