Serious crime on campus down

Figures show there has been no increase in crime during home football game days.

Serious crime on campus down

Ian Larson

Some neighborhood associations balk at the idea, but data released by the University of Minnesota Police Department shows significant annual drops in most forms of serious crime since 2006. Burglaries, vehicle thefts, robberies and alcohol citations dropped significantly in 2008 compared with the two previous calendar years, and forcible sex offenses fell slightly over the same period, according to the data, which University police published earlier this month in compliance with the Clery Act âÄî a federal law requiring universities to publish select crime statistics. University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner attributed some of the reductions to improved police methods and technologies over the past two decades. Gone are hand-written police reports and the color-coded pushpins dotting wall-sized maps. Now computer mapping and databases help them analyze trends and anticipate future crimes. University and Minneapolis police have also adopted a crime prevention system that holds individual precinct commanders responsible for reacting to crime in their precincts, Miner said. The system is modeled after one that originated in New York City. Authorities there found that when commanders were made accountable for their proactive responses to crime, they became more effective. University police can now more easily look for trends and patterns in crime, and can determine whether the activity is based on factors like area, day of the week, time of day or other external variables, Miner said. Reductions in criminal activity on campus are matched by similar drops in MinneapolisâÄô 2nd Precinct, of which the UniversityâÄôs East Bank is a part. From 2006 to 2008, the number of robberies and assaults in the 2nd Precinct was halved, Minneapolis police records show, and in the past two years alone, overall crime in the 2nd Precinct has fallen more than 40 percent, said Inspector Bryan Schafe r, 2nd Precinct Commander. Schafer attributed some of the drop âÄî which has been seen in many cities across the country âÄî to social and economic factors, including the recession, but new analysis techniques and a program initiated in the spring of 2006 to target juvenile offenders are other possible factors, he said. Despite generally positive trends in other areas, both aggravated assault and drug violations on campus dropped in 2007, but citations rose the following year to their 2006 levels. Despite the uptick, and occasional others like it, Miner and Schafer said 2009 crime figures are likely to continue their downward trend, even in light of new human traffic in the area due to home football games. Some in 2nd Precinct neighborhoods have drawn attention to nuisances that arenâÄôt often or easily cited, such as loud parties, residual trash from partygoers and other quality of life issues, Schafer said. While police canâÄôt easily quantify the pervasiveness of these possible problems, data collected so far indicates that the stadium has had little negative effect on the surrounding neighborhoods. The 2nd Precinct reminded subscribers to its mailing list Tuesday that in Minneapolis it is unlawful to âÄúparticipate in noisy and unruly gatherings or âĦ permit your property to be used for noisy or unruly assemblies,âÄù but the perceived increase in noise and other disturbances isnâÄôt easily linked to the stadium. A compilation of University police data from this academic year shows that police received the most calls on Sept. 26, when the football team was playing in Evanston, Ill. On that weekend, University police received 19 calls for service related to fights, and nearly 30 for loud parties. By contrast, when the Gophers played at home against Wisconsin the following weekend, University police received only five calls related to fighting and 20 for loud parties. âÄúWe have to address the issues we see. We have to address the facts, and take them on one at a time,âÄù Schafer said. âÄúIf a neighbor perceives that itâÄôs bad, then it is until you can prove them otherwise, and thatâÄôs a hard sell sometimes.âÄù Schafer said the city of Minneapolis, neighborhood associations, the University and the police will continue to discuss and adapt their approach to stadium policy.