Use Vikings money for public safety

There’s money on the table as the Vikings arrive at TCF, and it should go toward preventing crime in University area neighborhoods.

This semester, we’ve seen an uptick in violent crime around campus. We’ve also seen the Gophers’ last season at TCF Bank Stadium before the Minnesota Vikings join them in 2014.

As the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota grapple with several alarming crimes against students, the University is preparing to divvy up about $125,000 in neighborhood donations from the Vikings.

As the semester comes to a close, it’s becoming clear this money in the Good Neighbor Fund should be spent on new safety initiatives for the University and surrounding neighborhoods.

The Good Neighbor Fund, comprised of $90,000 in cash and $35,000 of in-kind donations, is ostensibly set aside for long-lasting, tangible improvements, but the University is also looking for highly visible projects that show neighborhood collaboration.

Crime is at the forefront

Marcy-Holmes, Como, Prospect Park and Cedar-Riverside made more headlines for community development and rapid development than public safety until recently, when a series of alarming, violent crimes blindsided the neighborhoods.

The University isn’t immune; an alleged armed robbery in a campus building during the day paralyzed the school and set officials scrambling to maintain the school’s reputation for safety — with mixed success.

The violent robberies, sexual assaults and attempted kidnapping of a student all come at a time when community groups are trying to puzzle out a project proposal large enough to fit University Community Relations’ criteria for the Vikings funds.

Como was attempting to expand potential improvements, and Marcy-Holmes was taking proposals.

What could we do with the money?

A Good Neighbor Fund public safety initiative could take many forms, and there’s enough money for each neighborhood to allocate resources according to its own needs. Community groups could expand neighborhood watch programs, upgrade lights and cameras, offer self-defense classes or even hire off-duty police officers, like some Dinkytown businesses do.

Each neighborhood group knows what its area needs, but strategizing under the umbrella of one new initiative for 2014 would stay true to the collaborative spirit the University is seeking.

Because the University sits at the center of recent crime and distributes Good Neighbor Fund money, it would be easy to integrate any new or expanded neighborhood projects with campus safety programs like the escort service or the recently expanded Gopher Chauffer.

Everyone has something to gain

As the middleman, the University is in an ideal position. The onus of creating the new program is rightfully on the neighborhoods, and the University simply has to distribute someone else’s money to bolster its own public image tremendously.

Funding a new public safety program would also help the Vikings’ public image more than new playgrounds or an appearance from Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson — two ideas the franchise reportedly pitched during negotiations with the University.

With an NFL team, thousands of fans and all the accompanying fanfare arriving on campus, safety will be an even bigger concern next fall.

Students, neighborhoods, the University and the Vikings all stand to benefit from a new, collaborative neighborhood safety initiative.

The money is already on the table, and we hope the University and community groups will put it toward crime prevention.