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This research was made possible in part through the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service Research Fellowship at Thomas Jefferson University and the assistance of the Clery Center.


The Clery Act (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)) was passed following the rape and murder of Jeanne Clery in 1986 at Lehigh University. The intent of the law was to improve campus safety by making information about crime as well as safety and security policies more accessible to students, parents, employees, and others. This study explored the efficacy of the emergency notification and timely warnings provisions of the law. The study found these messages to be useful in promoting campus safety, particularly by informing people about safety issues and impacting people’s behavior related to self-protection. However, safety related behavior changes are perceived to be short-term rather than long-term. Problems were also reported in relation to timeliness of messages, message content and the unintended impacts or consequences that messages can have. Unintended impacts or consequences include the potential for messages to lead to perceptions that a campus is an unsafe campus environment when in fact risks are small; to reinforce racial stereotypes; to be perceived as victim blaming, or revealing information that causes victims who report crime to be outed; or trigger psychological complications. The potential for these issues to cause a “chilling effect” or impede law enforcement efforts were also reported.