UMPD escort service use decreases

Campus security has, however, seen usage spikes after e-mail crime alerts are sent.

by Alyssa Kroeten

University students walked in step with security after the latest crime alerts hit the wire.

The University police department’s free campus escort service received 58 calls requesting walking escorts the day after the alleged assault in Wilson Library Oct. 1.

Daniel Farrar, assistant program manager of the University police’s security monitor program, said it’s common to see an increase in campus escort requests after University police release crime alerts.

Crimes against people, such as robbery and assault, are more likely to worry students, Farrar said, thus causing an increase in calls.

On any given night, 60 security monitors out of a staff of 140 are on duty.

Benton Schnabel, manager of the security monitor program, said despite the recent spike in campus escort requests, the program has seen a sharp decline in overall usage since 2000.

Schnabel said one of the reasons for such a drop is the increased use of cell phones. When used properly, cell phones can be a valuable tool for increasing safety, he said.

“People that are maybe up to no good are a little bit more aware that people have cell phones and it’s kind of harder to do something without somebody else knowing,” he said.

Although cell phones add a level of security, they can also serve as a distraction, University police Lt. Chuck Miner said.

“If people are talking on their cell phone, they need to be extra aware of their surroundings and not let the conversation distract them,” he said.

Marketing junior Laura Way said she talks on the phone with her mom on her way home after night class because it makes her feel safe.

“If I’m on the phone I feel like someone would be less likely to attack me because I would be able to alert the person I’m talking to,” Way said.

Farrar warned that cell phones can give a false sense of security to students because they think they can easily call 911 if an incident occurs.

The advent of classes, work assignments and reserved materials that are all online also contribute to the decline because fewer students need to leave their residences to complete coursework, Schnabel said.

In the past, there were more students who spent late nights in the library studying with friends. Today, more students are accomplishing the same work with their computers at home, he said.

The majority of students calling into the service aren’t worried specifically about the crime alerts themselves, Schnabel said. Instead, students are taking extra time to think about their overall safety.

“Crime alerts serve to jog that in their memory,” he said.

University sophomore Ellie Bjorklund said the University is not a guarded area and crime alerts are a reminder of that reality.

“It’s hard to avoid that fact,” she said. “Crime alerts remind you we live in Minneapolis, not just some suburban campus.”

Bjorklund, who used the service early Friday, said she called at 4:30 a.m. because she didn’t feel safe walking through the Como neighborhood alone. While Bjorklund said she realizes the importance of walking in numbers, sometimes a person has no choice but to walk alone.

Jeff Waltz, security monitor field supervisor, said although campus is safer than surrounding areas, it’s a city in itself and crimes do happen.

The No.1 safety tip for preventing a crime against a person is to not walk alone, Schnabel said. Sometimes that means waiting the extra time for a security escort, he said.

“Your chances of being personally attacked are greatly reduced when you’re with another person,” he said.