Developing campus safety

Campus safety has been a focal point this fall. From traffic incidents to robberies, we’ve already seen far too many frightening headlines and crime alerts. Understandably, students and parents are concerned. Questions have been raised about everything from law enforcement techniques to official communication methods. Instead of simply reading headlines or tweets and assuming it’s the Wild West on and around campus, it’s important to understand the efforts of University police and facts about campus safety.

Crime is at a 25-year low

The common misperception holds that crime is rampant on and around campus. The facts show a different reality. In 1989, there were 2,082 Part I Crimes (robbery, theft, burglary, homicide, rape, etc.) reported on campus; more than 45,000 were reported in the City of Minneapolis. By 2012, those numbers had dropped significantly: 572 Part I Crimes on campus and just more than 23,000 citywide.

There are many reasons for the drop in crime: better coordination between UMPD and Minneapolis police, 2,500 high-quality security cameras on campus, improved policing techniques, and a more creative use of statistics and crime trends.

It’s unrealistic to hope that we can get to a crime rate of zero, but we’ll continue to work to not only keep the campus safe but also to allow people to feel safe.

Arrests have been made

In response to the recent string of robberies, our UMPD Coordinated Response Team has been hard at work looking at trends and data, increasing undercover patrols and working closely with the Minneapolis Police Department and Metro Transit Police.

In recent weeks, UMPD has made arrests in at least two of the robbery cases and in a purse-snatching case. We’ve also recovered a handgun likely used in an earlier August robbery, and we continue to assist Minneapolis police in the investigation of other crimes. With one exception, the robberies have occurred off-campus and are therefore officially either Minneapolis police or Metro Transit Police cases. We have turned the arrested suspects over to those agencies for completion.

Bad guys are increasingly brazen

Despite a continuing drop in the number of crimes, we have seen a disturbing change in the way criminals work. For years, one of the best ways to stay safe was to walk with someone. In all of the recent robberies, students walking in pairs were attacked by groups of five or six men. They know that robbing two or more victims at the same time usually results in two or more cell phones, laptops and wallets.

Even with the increasingly brazen nature in how the criminals work, the notion of “safety in numbers” is valid. Students are encouraged to walk a friend home, travel in groups or utilize the Security Monitor Program or the Gopher Chauffeur.

Crime alerts are important reading

The University sends crime alerts to inform the community of serious crimes that have been committed reasonably near to campus and where no arrest has been made. The Clery Act requires us to send the alerts, but our commitment goes beyond the requirements. We make our crime alerts factual and to the point, and we provide as much of a description of the suspects as possible.

Shared responsibility of safety

Even the most all-encompassing initiatives can’t succeed without the understanding that safety is a responsibility shared by everyone on campus.

For the University, that includes providing the infrastructure and personnel needed to create and sustain safe and secure places.

For the city of Minneapolis, that means working to ensure that the neighborhoods surrounding the University are safe.

For students, that means taking steps like not walking alone at night, staying sober enough to fend for yourself and securing your belongings. It also means watching out for fellow students who are not engaging in safe behavior, or if you observe suspicious circumstances or fear for your safety, never hesitate to call 911. We would rather prevent a crime than respond to one.

Finally, remember that the University area is safer than at any other time in the past 25 years. UMPD and partner agencies are working to ensure this remains the case.