Robbery reports down in University neighborhoods

by Andy Mannix

The five neighborhoods surrounding the University’s Minneapolis campus have, as a whole, experienced a nearly 28 percent decline in reported robberies this year since 2007, as of May 31.

The area has also seen a 57 percent decline from the same time in 2006.

Carol Oosterhuis , Minneapolis police 2nd precinct crime-prevention specialist, said the decrease can be partially attributed to an increase in MPD officers in the past two years.

In 2003, the Minneapolis City Council approved $20.6 million in budget cuts that led to hundreds of city employees losing their jobs. Many of these were police officers.

“That sort of went along with the increase in crime,” Oosterhuis said. “Now we’ve been hiring more officers and there’s a decrease in crime.”

However, Minneapolis police Lt. Greg Reinhardt said the decrease in robberies and other crime is due to a focus on “high visibility” rather than an increase in officers.

Second-precinct officers emphasize visible patrolling, such as street enforcement and the “party patrol,” Reinhardt said.

“All these things are designed to present high visibility,” he said. “It creates a general network of safety in the neighborhoods.”

Reinhardt said there have been about six officers added to the 2nd precinct this year, and he hopes to see between 12 and 16 more by the time TCF Bank Stadium opens in fall 2009.

“We’ve seen some big changes in the U of M area, and I think the stadium is going to bring even more,” Reinhardt said. “That’s going to affect the way we police, too.”

The MPD also re-established a juvenile unit about two years ago, which investigates juvenile robbery and assault cases.

As summer approaches, MPD is gearing up for the annual spike in crime that accompanies an influx of pedestrian traffic. Though crime will likely increase in the next few months, Oosterhuis was optimistic trends will remain low, she said.

On-campus trends consistent

While the neighborhoods surrounding the University experienced a fluctuation in robbery reports in the past two years, on-campus robbery reports have remained consistent.

Four robberies have occurred on campus in 2008 – the same number as at the end of May 2007, and one more than the end of May 2006.

University police Lt. Troy Buhta said the campus escort service, attentive reporting of suspicious behavior and the employment of four officers and one sergeant on every UMPD shift deter on-campus robberies.

Most robberies occur in the evening, Buhta said, which means campus buildings are generally closed and there are fewer people walking around.

“It’s concerning whenever we do have one,” he said in reference to robberies on campus. “We like to think we have this umbrella over the campus that protects everybody.”