Greeks work to form safety committee

The greek community will work with local police to create a safer campus area.

Vadim Lavrusik

The greek community is in the process of creating a temporary safety committee that will meet throughout the semester in an attempt to resolve safety concerns at the University.

The collaboration with the greeks includes University officials, greek alumni, the Minnesota Student Association and both University and Minneapolis police departments.

The committee will look at safety and crime concerns through sub-committees and work groups that will discuss lighting issues, greek risk management and police issues.

According to Minneapolis Police Department records, overall crime in the campus area increased by a little more than 4 percent from 2005-2006. Violent crimes, such as homicide, rape, robbery and assault, decreased by 12 percent for the year.

Alec Catsuros, president of the Interfraternity Council, said the idea for the temporary committee came after all the collaborators gathered last semester to address safety problems affecting the greek community and the University as a whole.

At the meeting, the individuals discussed safety concerns and decided to create a temporary committee that would tackle safety concerns, Catsuros said.

He said some of the committees will focus on brainstorming ideas to improve police communication, while others will focus on implementing change within the community, such as adding lighting in the neighborhood or exploring options of hiring a security guard to patrol University Avenue Southeast.

Each of the sub-committees will meet on their own times and then come together to present their findings before the end of the semester, he said.

None of the committees has met yet.

The creation of the committee is a step toward the community taking matters into its own hands in creating a safer environment, said Steve Johnson, deputy chief of University police.

“(Law enforcement) can’t do it by ourselves,” Johnson said.

He said the only way things are going to change is if safety becomes a part of the greek atmosphere, so that incoming students pick up on it right from the start.

Johnson, who works closely with the greek community on safety issues, said students need to better articulate themselves when dialing 911 for an emergency.

Amelious Whyte, chief of staff at the Office of Student Affairs, said there were fraternity members at the initial meeting who felt the police departments did not adequately respond to their 911 calls because the incident took place at a fraternity.

Whyte said that officers at the meeting said the problem was the way in which fraternity members describe situations and their seriousness to the operator.

To address the issue, one of the committees will develop a resource guide for contacting the police, to educate members on how to better articulate a situation when calling 911.

The houses will also invite officers from both Minneapolis and University police departments to dinner at their houses to create a better communicating relationship between the two bodies, Whyte said.

Lorna Fox, president of the Minnesota Greek Alumni Partnership, said the campus isn’t as safe as it used to be.

“Safety has always been an issue,” Fox said. “But it’s feeling a lot more unsafe.”

Fox said when she attended the University, she was attacked on her way to her sorority house, but managed to fight off the perpetrator.

“I was naïve,” she said. “It made me think twice about how I walk home.”

She said there needs to be more emphasis on educating students about what to do in such situations.

“I think the students can still be safe,” she said. “You have to be aware and knowledgeable of what may and may not be out there.”