UMN safety alerts get an upgrade

The system will now include two distinct alerts for threats on campus.

A University of Minnesota Police car is parked outside of the Graduate Hotel on East Bank on Thursday, June 21.

Image by Tony Saunders

A University of Minnesota Police car is parked outside of the Graduate Hotel on East Bank on Thursday, June 21.

by Taylor Schroeder

University of Minnesota officials are hoping to streamline safety notifications starting this year. 

The University’s Departments of Public Safety and Emergency Management updated their process for crime, weather and other emergency notifications on and around campus in late August. The updated system divides notification into two new categories: Safe-U Emergency alerts and Safe-U Advisory alerts.

Safe-U Emergency alerts identify threats to campus where the subject of the alert may still be on campus. These alerts can come in the form of text messages, phone calls and emails, according to University of Minnesota Police Department Chief Matt Clark. Safe-U Advisory alerts identify threats that have moved outside of the campus window and only come in email form. 

The University of Minnesota Twins Cities campus is notably behind other campus systems on the update, Clark said. 

“It’s what other Big 10 schools are doing, and it’s what the Duluth and Morris campuses are doing, so why not the Twin Cities campus?” Clark said. 

Mike Berthelsen, vice president of University Services, said these categories improve identified consistency and efficiency with sending out notifications. The new system also helps the University comply with the Clery Act, he said. 

Named after Jeanne Clery in 1990, the Clery Act mandates any college or university receiving federal funding give timely warnings of crimes that represent a threat to the safety of students and employees. 

In 2018, the University of Minnesota issued eight safety alerts. In 2017, there were 18 safety alerts and in 2016 there were 11 safety alerts. There have been 119 timely warnings issued since 2011, according to data provided by the University.

“By simplifying the number of systems we use, the University can speed up the time it takes to send the alerts out. We want to do a better job of communicating consistently,” Berthelsen said.  

According to Berthelsen, the new response system should not change the number of alerts sent to students and employees. 

“In total, the notifications won’t amount to any more or less. The more crimes or emergencies there are, the more notifications the University will send out. We want to make sure everyone gets the alerts at least one way, through email.” 

Clark said students and employees may opt in or out of text message and phone alerts on their MyU pages, while email notifications are mandatory. 

While the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department issue alerts independent from the University, some Safe-U alerts may contain information provided from other law enforcement agencies. 

“The MPD works closely with the UMPD. We issue crime alerts when we notice patterns that we want the public aware of,” MPD spokesperson Darcy Horn said in an emailed statement.