Officials discuss safety after assault

A Nov. sexual assault prompted the meeting.

Hailey Colwell

In an effort to shed light on crime and safety on the West Bank, students, police and city government officials gathered Tuesday at Augsburg College for the Cedar-Riverside Safety Summit.

The meeting came in response to the sexual assault of a St. Catherine University student Nov. 19 near Riverside Park.

The female student was walking near campus in the early morning before being approached by a man, grabbed, dragged into the woods and sexually assaulted. The woman was able to escape, and the offender was apprehended thanks to a police sketch provided to the community.

Representatives from the Minneapolis Police Department, Minneapolis Park Police, the University of Minnesota Police Department and the Minneapolis City Council addressed students and residents from the area Tuesday night about preventing crimes like the November assault.

Cam Gordon and Robert Lilligren, who represent the West Bank on the City Council, spoke to attendees about the role of community gatherings in crime prevention.

“[The meetings’] greatest successes come from the community identifying what the safety needs are,” Lilligren said.

While the University campus is constantly patrolled by police and security guards, officials at the meeting also informed people about neighborhood safety resources such as the safety center opened last May in the Riverside Plaza.

University student Hani Mohamed said though efforts like the safety center have helped the community, more restorative justice effort is needed.

“Sentencing and arresting doesn’t solve the problem, it’s a short-time solution,” he said.

Mohamed works as the program manager for the Cedar Riverside Neighborhood Revitalization Program. She said rather than taking action simply to eradicate crime in the area, programs should be started to make the community safer from the inside-out.

“We need to focus justice to our neighborhood.”

Representatives from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office spoke about community impact statements, which people not directly involved in crimes can submit to the court.

The statements are used by judges in every case they hear, said Carla Nielson, crime prevention specialist for MPD, and can aid in the judges’ decisions.

“They really are a way for us to have a voice to the courts,” Nielson said, “[and] to be involved working together to solidify a safe community.”

Representatives from MPD also shared 2012 crime statistics. According to the statistics, crime rates have decreased in the past two years. Nielson said 2012 was a “proactive” year compared to others.

“As a whole, the statistics look really well,” she said.

UMPD officer Luke Huck spoke at the meeting about safety on campus.

He said it’s important for students to be aware of their surroundings and electronics.

Cellphone theft has become a major issue on campus, Huck said, particularly with iPhones — called “apple-picking.”

Huck suggested using the iCloud app to track iPhones if they’re stolen. He also said staying aware of surroundings and not walking with headphones on is key to preventing theft and staying safe.

“If you’re safe on campus and you use these simple things, like paying attention and being aware of your surroundings, you can bring that onto the streets, and you can bring that into your home life.”