U Police initiates community discussion on campus safety

UMPD met with admins, faculty members and students Monday to evaluate safety concerns.

by Tiffany Lukk

Student leaders and faculty members have come together to talk campus safety after a string of robberies around the University of Minnesota in recent weeks.
Members of the University of Minnesota Police Department met on Monday with student leaders and faculty members to discuss current University safety precautions and ways in which the department could better connect to students. 
UMPD Chief Matthew Clark, who was appointed in 2015, said the department held the event in order to build better connections between students and officers and to teach students how to keep themselves safe.
Although robberies on and around campus have spiked recently, Clark said the event was something he wanted to host since he became head of the police department, and not a response to the uptick in crime. 
Attendees discussed perceptions of student safety, best practices that both the department and students can employ to improve safety, and what areas of safety officers and students should increase their focus on.
Students at the meeting said they felt safer closer to campus where it’s well-lit and there’s more foot traffic.
Some students said they felt that they should be more cautious when they’re farther away from campus. The sorority row area and Fourth Street Southeast were some of the areas students mentioned.
“It’s dark. There’s a lot of houses. There’s no University building you can run to,” said biochemistry sophomore Blake Harris.
Some faculty members said students need to be more aware of their surroundings, and said the rapid expansion of the neighborhoods around the University might have attracted crime to the area.
Students are sometimes unsure of when a situation is serious enough to warrant a call to 911, said career services administration director Becky Hall.
Both students and faculty members at the event expressed appreciation for University crime alerts.
Health and wellness junior Anne Maurer said even though it’s frightening to know that crimes are committed so close to her, she likes the crime alerts because they let her know in what areas around campus to be more cautious.
But some students said they preferred to receive texts rather than emails. 
“It feels like somebody’s watching out for us,” Harris said. “It feels more personal.”
Some faculty members recommended that the University create a plan to help continually educate students about safety procedures at the University. 
While UMPD has about 50 officers on staff, if needed, the department can call and have 20 to 30 more officers arrive in minutes, Clark said.
Due to the success of the first safety meeting, Clark said he hopes to have more meetings in the future and to include more of the student body.