In an Aug. 17 letter sent to University and Minneapolis police chiefs and other city officials, University student government leaders requested an increase in police presence as the school year begins.
“Safety is an integral aspect of education,” the letter states. “If students do not feel safe, the educational process is hindered.”
The University Police Department last fall sent out a crime alert regarding a string of assaults around campus last September.
University Police Chief Greg Hestness said he thinks some of the response times on last year’s assault calls were inadequate, but said police made arrests in some incidents.
“We certainly agree (with the letter). My response was that both University police and Minneapolis police in the second precinct have both worked together a lot,” he said. “I got a chance to represent the staffing arguments Ö and (University President Bob Bruininks) is very receptive to that.”
The University added two police officers last year and three more will be added this year, University spokesman Dan Wolter said in an e-mail.
“We’ll have increased staffing by 10 percent in a relatively short period of time,” Wolter said. “That’s substantial progress.”
The University, which has the second-largest student population among Big Ten Conference schools, also had the lowest officer-to-student
ratio in the conference in fall 2006, with slightly fewer than one officer per 1000 students, according to a public safety overview compiled by University police.
The ratio is nearly unchanged from this time last year.
Northwestern University ranks first in the Big Ten, where the student population is 14,000 and the officer-to-student ratio is 3.07 to 1,000.
“I think it’s a very valid point (Minnesota Student Association) raises,” Hestness said. “I don’t really fault (the Board of Regents) but we are a little on the thin side, and I think the president realizes that.”
Hestness said the University Police Department has 46 officers on its force and is budgeted for 47.
He said he hopes to have 55 officers on the force by the time the TCF Bank Stadium is open in fall 2009.
The public safety overview, dated Aug. 13, states the campus saw a 10 percent increase in violent crimes last year. Violent crimes are the most serious crimes, including homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, assault and arson.
Hestness said the number of violent crimes has spiked in the last couple years, but in 2007 they have been “going in the right direction.”
He also said robbery has been one of his concerns because the rate of robberies is consistently more than it was 10 years ago.
MSA members also sent a copy of the letter to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis city councilman Cam Gordon, Minneapolis Deputy Chief Robert Allen, Minneapolis Police Inspector Robert Skomra, and Minneapolis Police Second Precinct Crime Prevention Specialist Carol Oosterhuis.
Adam Engelman, vice chairman of student representatives to the Board of Regents and MSA member, said Hestness is the only person who responded to the letter as of Daily press time Sunday.