Call spikes strain security program

This fall, calls for a safe walk home climbed with every crime alert, stretching the Security Monitor Program thin.

Security monitor Will Burnton receives a request for an escort on his two-way radio while walking across the Washington Avenue bridge during his shift on Thursday, April 17.

Patricia Grover

Security monitor Will Burnton receives a request for an escort on his two-way radio while walking across the Washington Avenue bridge during his shift on Thursday, April 17.

Marion Renault

Once the sun sets, the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus becomes a void.

Its paths are lit only by the occasional lamppost, its buildings drained of their 70,000 daytime inhabitants.

Only the scratch of walkie-talkies and roving footsteps break the silence as campus security monitors make their rounds, walking the late-night studiers and stragglers home late into the night.

“You definitely get to see a whole other side to campus,” said JD Counsell, a freshman and former security monitor. “It was like a pressing kind of loneliness you got. … It was just — humbling, almost.”

During the fall semester, bouts of crime punctured the University’s nightly emptiness. And at the urging of every consequent crime alert, use of the Security Monitor Program spiked.

The program, also known as 624-WALK, employs students to be 24/7 eyes and ears for University police and to escort callers home.

It’s not a job for everyone. For up to 60 hours a week, they patrol buildings and escort people home into the early morning hours. Then they go to class.

“They warn people: Don’t do too much, too fast, too hard,” said Henry Gray, a sophomore and former monitor. “People burn out quickly.”

Former and current security monitors say that after a while, quitting is the only option.

Calls to the service increased with each crime alert this fall, according to Minnesota Daily analysis of security monitor call logs. However, security monitor staffing remained the same, raising questions about whether the program is equipped to handle the influx of calls.

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