Regents get update on U safety

Update shows campus crime is low, although it is perceived as high.

Brian Edwards

University of Minnesota officials want to address the common perception that the school is unsafe.
 
University of Minnesota Police Chief Matthew Clark  laid out a two-pronged approach to campus safety regarding crime and student drinking to the Board of Regents last week.
 
Clark and board members said outreach, education and the continuation of current policing standards are necessary to keep University students safe.
 
“We have to be at the top of our game all the time,” Regent David McMillan said. “I think it’s an ever-present and omnipresent issue.”
 
In Minneapolis, the University and surrounding neighborhoods accounted for just under 9 percent of the total crime in 2014, even though the University has more than 80,000 people on campus — one-fifth the size of Minneapolis’ population as a whole — every day.
 
Larceny, which is classified as non-violent theft, accounts for almost 90 percent of the total reported crime at the University. Last year, nearly 450 instances occurred, but the school’s most common crime has steadily decreased since 2005. 
 
Other major crimes, like burglary and homicide, have remained consistently low. Last year, there were 32 reported burglaries on campus. 
 
The University has paid special attention to the neighborhoods and areas bordering the school because the University can’t control who comes and goes from campus, McMillan said.
 
Educating students about risks associated with living in a large metropolitan area and helping them make smart choices could keep those numbers low, he said.
 
Still, regents have raised concerns about the perception among students and their parents of crime on campus compared to the actual amount.
 
“[Crime alerts] can send a message to the public that the University of Minnesota is unsafe,” Chair Dean Johnson said at the meeting. “I don’t think that’s the message we want to send.”
 
To combat that viewpoint, Clark said UMPD has been working to show students and parents the actual number of crimes on campus.
 
Additionally, reaching out to students at orientation and on-campus to spread the word about services like security monitor escorts and Gopher Chauffer can help students get home safe, he said.
 
Those services can also help students stay safe when drinking, Clark said, which was another focus of his presentation to the board.
 
He said the school and UMPD recognize that students will drink, but educating students about risks associated with binge drinking can help limit the risks associated with overconsumption.
 
“Our big thing is their safety,” he said.
 
Clark said UMPD has been working with student groups and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to teach students about reading alcohol labels so they are more educated about the amount of alcohol they consume.