Minneapolis sees crime drop in 2008

Minneapolis posted its second crime reduction in as many years during 2008. The cityâÄôs 2nd Precinct, which includes the University of Minnesota area, posted the highest crime drop in Minneapolis last year, according to Uniform Crime Reports submitted to the FBI. However, both city crime reports and the University of Minnesota Police DepartmentâÄôs annual summaries showed that rape and other sexual offenses increased. Inspector Robert Skomra , who commands the cityâÄôs 2nd Precinct, said its 22 percent violent crime drop was a community-wide effort. âÄúThe cops over here just did a fantastic job,âÄù Skomra said, âÄúbut we couldnâÄôt do it without the cooperation of the entire community.âÄù An increase in traffic stops helped keep would-be offenders from cruising the streets, he said, and community members contributed with overwhelming participation in National Night Out. It will be difficult to sustain this kind of progress in reduction, Skomra said, but he is optimistic. On campus, UMPD reported a 14 percent drop in overall crime in 2008. Most of the decreases were in alcohol offenses, burglaries and thefts. Lt. Troy Buhta said the UMPD hopes to keep numbers low in the future by urging people to take more precautions regarding their personal safety, like taking down serial numbers on property, which helps during thefts. He also said securing campus facilities at night is an important part of reducing crime. âÄúOur message is working,âÄù Buhta said. âÄúWeâÄôre getting more and more help from faculty and staff on reporting suspicious people.âÄù However, despite an overall success at crime reduction, both the 2nd Precinct and the UMPD saw an increase in reported rapes, molestations and other sexual offenses, which include public exposure and urination. Rapes on campus doubled in 2008, increasing from three to six, and molestations also increase d slightly, according to UMPD statistics. Buhta said most of the reported rapes were acquaintance rapes which, though no less severe, are less of a threat to general public safety. âÄúOverall, I donâÄôt think there was more of that going on last year than any other years,âÄù Buhta said. âÄúI donâÄôt think thereâÄôs something out there lurking.âÄù Aurora Center Associate Director Roberta Gibbons said itâÄôs important to realize that these are only reported numbers. âÄúThereâÄôs really not any reason to believe an increase in police reports means thereâÄôs an increase in the community,âÄù she said. Highly publicized cases of sexual assault skew public perception of whatâÄôs really going on, Gibbons said, and the number of victims that used the Aurora Center stayed consistent from 2007 to 2008. Roughly 100 victims of sexual assault used the Aurora Center in 2008, far more than filed police reports, but far less than the probable number of actual victims, Gibbons said. The center also provides legal advocacy for victims of sexual assault and trains college and disability services advisors on what to do when confronted with a victim. Grants from the U.S. Justice Department help fund some of these programs. The University is in the middle of a three-year $200,000 grant, Gibbons said, and government funding for projects has been steadily drying up, although the University has helped fund some vital new projects. The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently received a similar grant worth $300,000 over three years, the school announced Jan. 22. The centerâÄôs relationship with UMPD primarily involves advocacy when a person reports a sexual assault, Gibbons said. But about 25 percent of people who go to the center file a police report, roughly eight times the national average, she said. âÄúPeople are a lot more likely to make a police report if they come to us first,âÄù Gibbons said. âÄúItâÄôs a little less daunting. It just makes it a little bit more comfortable for people.âÄù The rape of a woman in Pioneer Hall last year brought up concerns about University residence hall safety. It was one of four rapes reported in late April and May last year, the most rapes reported at the University before June in four years, the Daily reported in May 2008. Journalism sophomore Molly Dhir , who lived in Pioneer Hall last year, called the weeks following the rape âÄúsurreal.âÄù âÄúYeah, it happenedâÄù Dhir said, âÄúbut it still didnâÄôt seem like something like that would happen where you live, like in your dorm building where you always feel safe.âÄù Pioneer Hall has 18 exits , and Dhir said the rape made her realize that the hall was potentially unsecure. âÄúAt night, thereâÄôs a security guard,âÄù she said, âÄúbut at Pioneer, thereâÄôs so many ways to get around it.âÄù