U of M ranks high in crime

by Kevin Behr

The University outpaces most of its Big Ten counterparts when it comes to violent crime.

Compared to other schools in the conference, the University ranks third in total violent crimes committed on campus property. It also had the second-highest percentage increase in violent crime between 2004 and 2005.

The total number of violent crimes – defined as homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery – increased from 12 incidents in 2004 to 22 in 2005, according to Clery Act statistics released by all schools. Statistics for 2006 are unavailable because they are compiled annually.

Steve Johnson, deputy chief of University police, said it is important to read these statistics in context.

Clery Act statistics include crimes reported not only to police, but also to advocacy centers, security authorities or anyone considered an official at the school.

Nevertheless, these numbers place the University third in the Big Ten behind Michigan State with 38 reported incidents and Ohio State with 39, according to the statistics.

Crime on the University campus increased from 12 cases to 22, an 83 percent jump from 2004. The only school with a higher increase was Indiana University, where violent crime increased 140 percent, from 5 incidents to 12.

First-year student Meheret Tadesse called the statistic “scary.”

“I thought the U of M was supposed to be a safe place,” she said.

Math junior Ben Balling said 22 violent crimes on campus “is ridiculously small.”

“On a campus of 50,000 students, 22 (crimes) doesn’t seem like all that much,” he said.

Contributing factors

Many factors, such as the proximity and character of nearby communities and student enrollment, must be taken into account when comparing schools’ crime statistics.

“The (University of) Iowa campus is rural and in and of itself,” Johnson said. “The University of Minnesota is in an urban setting.”

Overall crime in Minneapolis has not risen dramatically, but after six or seven years of declines, violent crime has increased over the last couple of years, Minneapolis Police Lt. Greg Reinhardt said.

Citywide, violent crime increased by 15 percent between 2004 and 2005, while increasing 23 percent in the University’s precinct, according to Minneapolis Police statistics.

The Clery Act statistics show schools with higher populations tend to have higher instances of violent crime.

“Crime on campus is seasonally driven,” Reinhardt said. “When there are students, there’s more crime. Always has been.”

Fighting the trend

The University police’s approach to curbing violence on campus is multifaceted, Johnson said.

Besides sending out crime alerts to heighten awareness, he said the University police department has also begun to increase the size of its force.

The department has hired and begun training two new officers who will be ready to fill in patrol spots soon, while two more will be hired soon, Johnson said.

In the same vein, the Minneapolis Police Department plans to hire 80 new officers within the next two years, some of whom will be dedicated to the University area, Reinhardt said.

But, with so many closed doors on campus, it’s impossible to watch all of the University all the time, Balling said.

“(Violent crime) happens so fast, you can’t really prevent it even if you had police on every corner,” he said. “It’s bound to happen.”

University police send out regular patrols with assignments targeting problem areas that include surrounding campus neighborhoods, Johnson said.

At the same time, the department works closely with Minneapolis police, using the same radio and dispatch system, Johnson said.

“We handled over a thousand calls for the city last year,” he said. “Our officers are working as hard as they can.”