Meeting seeks solutions for crime

Elizabeth Cook

Prospect Park residents, students, stakeholders and Minneapolis police are discussing solutions to an increase in neighborhood crime.

On Thursday night the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association livability committee had a discussion to give community members a chance to exchange ideas about how to keep the neighborhood and its residents safe.

Aside from more lighting and a stronger police presence, it seemed most agreed that new students need awareness education about crime prevention because they are heavily targeted.

Joseph Ring, president of the association, said three major student housing complexes -The Melrose apartments, University Commons and University Village – were built in the neighborhood, but there hasn’t been an increase in police presence.

Ring said police also need to get more adjusted to the crimes that are happening and, for example, receive more training in auto-based crimes.

“The method of policing needs to be adjusted here,” Ring said.

Ring also suggested crime prevention through environmental design.

For example, if the spaces are more broken up in parking lots, it is easier to see someone trying to break in. Also, if there is a single entrance and single exit to a building, a thief might hesitate to enter because there is nowhere to run and the possibility of getting trapped is greater, Ring said.

Dave Walter, a member of the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association, said the meeting helped improve ties between neighborhood groups and students, and hopes there will be more discussion.

Walter said to decrease crime there will need to be more resources from the community, but to get these, residents must ask for them.

Valerie Wurster, inspector for the 2nd Precinct, said there are two sides to crime prevention in the neighborhood.

One is real direct law enforcement, which includes their robbery task force and working with the 5th Precinct.

Wurster said the task force has decreased crime considerably and made arrests in the past two robberies in Prospect Park.

The other side is educating the community about crime and getting them to keep their lights on in the dark and woodsy neighborhood.

Steve Johnson, deputy police chief for the University, said police would like to get residents to be safer and aware of how to report suspicious activity.

There are about 9,000 new students every year, Johnson said. The students don’t know their neighbors, they don’t know their routines and they wouldn’t be able to tell if something was unusual, he said.

Students need to be informed about not leaving valuables in cars and how to stay safe in the beginning of the year, he said.

At the meeting Johnson suggested having the equivalent of National Night Out, which is an annual event in which residents get to meet one another and police, a few weeks into the beginning of the year.

Kendre Turonie, coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs, said there is a Light Up the Night event toward the end of the summer during which people meet one another and get resources, but having one in the beginning of the fall semester is a great idea.

Turonie said University officials are trying to think of multiple ways to give information about crime and safety to new students.

“(The University) is trying to be creative in how we approach distributing the information to students and see what we come up with,” Turonie said.

Minnesota Student Association President Emily Serafy Cox also attended the meeting and said she hopes next year’s MSA administration will have some sort of crime-prevention campaign.

There’s not a whole lot that can be done for the remainder of the semester, Cox said. But the time now and through the summer can be used for planning ways to get safety tips out to students.

Michael Wilde, director of student services and marketing at The Melrose, said he liked the idea of a local night out during which residents can meet one another and become aware of crime and safety issues.

Wilde said The Melrose has its own safety measures, like increasing lighting on the east and south sides of the building last fall and also putting out alerts when a crime occurs on the property.

In addition, there is a courtesy officer who can walk people to their cars a block or two from the building between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. or 6 a.m., depending on the day.

Even though the property has its own prevention procedures, Wilde said he would like The Melrose to get more involved with the community. The next association meeting is scheduled to be in about six weeks at The Melrose to further discuss the ideas brought up Thursday.