New U Police Web site offers safety tips

Justin Costley

With a redesigned Web site, University Police have a high-tech way of connecting with the community and providing students with information related to crime and crime prevention on campus.
The Web site — www.umn.edu/umpolice — offers on-line information about the resources and services the department provides.
University Police Capt. Steve Johnson said the site provides an important instrument for the police to disseminate their message and vital information to the University community.
“This is probably one of the most common tools among students right now,” Johnson said. “It was time that we re-did it and made it more user-friendly and made it more of a vehicle that we could use to get the information out that we want to get out.”
Included in the Web site are maps of the University campuses, crime prevention tips and an interactive blood alcohol calculator, which enables users to calculate their blood alcohol level based on their body weight and number of drinks consumed.
“We wanted to have links with personal safety tips also,” Johnson said, “so that it wasn’t just a matter of here is this mug shot or sketch of this potential suspect, but also we give them some useful information to avoid becoming a victim.”
Other features include crime statistics for the area and links to University organizations such as the Program Against Sexual Violence. State and national law enforcement organizations are also linked to the site.
Another feature of the Web site are the crime alerts, which warn students of potential dangers or suspects in and around the University campus.
Three crime alerts are currently visible on the Web site. In one of the cases, police warn of a man suspected of raping a woman in the East River Flats park area Oct. 3.
Accompanying the details of the crime is a full description of the suspect, an artist’s composite sketch and police contact information.
Johnson said Web site alerts can make students more aware of potential criminals and their methods.
“Without the information out there, the chances of the public reporting somebody is zero,” Johnson said. “With it, the chances go up substantially.
“Even if the suspect isn’t caught, the way they’re victimizing people is out there and people become aware of tactics that are being used, and they’re not fooled or spoofed into becoming a victim,” he added.
Kelly Coughlan, executive assistant in the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence, said she hopes the Web site will be more widely used so that students can also use the links to the various sexual assault resources listed there.
“We didn’t even realize they had a link to our program, let alone all these sexual assault resources,” Coughlan said. “I think it’s awesome as long as people actually use it and know about it.”
She added the Web site could assure students that the University Police department is there to serve and protect them.
“I would hope that by doing this they would show that they are there for the students,” Coughlan said.

Justin Costley covers police and courts and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612)627-4070 x3224