Theft rate increases near U while rate declines in U.S.

Minneapolis police blamed the increase in theft on inadequate funding.

Elizabeth Cook

A visiting professor was attacked and robbed Jan. 9 near a corner of 15th Avenue Southeast in the Southeast Como neighborhood.

He was walking along Brook Avenue Southeast when two men approached him, one demanding his bag and wallet.

As the professor took the bag off his arm, he slipped and fell on ice. Then one of the assailants hit him on the head with the butt of a gun, the professor said.

The University and surrounding area saw an increase in robbery last semester.

Sgt. Jeff Harvey, a robbery investigator with the Minneapolis Police Department confirmed the details and said the professor received stitches after the incident.

Two suspects were found in Richfield, along with the professor’s laptop, but the investigation is far from over, Harvey said.

There were 12 robberies with University case numbers during fall semester, said Steve Johnson, deputy chief for the University Police Department.

Both University and Minneapolis police have been working together to do robbery detail, which includes undercover work, Johnson said.

These robbery details resulted in a few arrests at the end of December, Johnson said.

Jim Long, a crime prevention specialist for the city’s 2nd Precinct, said there were 34 personal robberies during the fall semester in the University area.

Long said part of the reason for the increase in robberies is less police presence because of budget cuts. But, he said, more officers are on the way.

Long said some situations increase the likelihood of criminal activity. For example, criminals preying on drunk people walking home late at night.

Johnson said there were not many robberies during winter break, but police have confirmed three since Jan. 6 and plan on continuing patrols.

Last semester, theft rates increased slightly on campus, but was down for the entire year, said University police Lt. Charles Miner.

And the number of reported bike thefts decreased by 35 percent from 2004, University Sgt. Erik Stenemann said.

In 2003, there were more than 300 reported bike thefts, 209 in 2004 and 150 in 2005.

Stenemann said bike theft is down because people are more informed, police send alerts, and because of bike monitors and an increase in the use of U-locks.

According to police reports, underage drinking was the most common crime on campus last semester.

There were more than 450 drinking citations issued last semester, including those under Operation NightCAP, a concentrated police crackdown.

Johnson said he doesn’t think alcohol is more of a problem here than on other campuses, but that “excessive drinking is a problem on any campus to some degree.”

Theft from motor vehicles has been slowly increasing on campus, according to reports.

Johnson said these crimes often are opportunity-driven.

“It’s a quick grab-and-run,” Johnson said.

Both theft from motor vehicles and theft itself are up in neighborhoods near the Minneapolis campus.

It’s becoming a major issue, said James De Sota, the neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association.

De Sota said theft rates have increased because there aren’t as many police on the streets, and because of the increased police presence in other parts of the city, this area looks more attractive to criminals.

Accounting and finance sophomore Justin Kallio, a Daily employee, knows firsthand what it’s like to have belongings stolen.

Kallio said he went away for break to be with his family. During that time, his landlord had a new window installed in his room.

The window was improperly installed and did not lock.

Kallio said he came home to find his flat-screen television, clothes (including a $500 suit), computer speakers, tennis rackets, blank CDs and DVDs gone.

All in all, he lost more than $2,000 worth of belongings, and Kallio plans to take the contracting company that put in the window to court.

Kallio said it’s been a stressful ordeal.

Even though it might seem like crime is increasing, Christopher Uggen, a sociology professor at the University, said there has been a steep decline in violent crime in Minnesota and nationwide.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime and property crime rates have decreased.

“These are (actually) really good times right now,” Uggen said.