As temperatures drop, campus crime moves indoors

UMPD expects to see more thefts and burglaries with the change in season.

Nick Wicker

University of Minnesota police are beginning to respond to a shift in crime patterns as the weather gains its icy Minnesota chill.

“With the cool-down over the last couple of weeks, activity seems to be decreasing,” said University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner.

Crime tends to move indoors as the weather grows colder, he said, so instances of thefts and burglaries within University buildings occasionally spike during the winter.

“Even criminals don’t like the cold,” he said.

According to Miner, more UMPD officers are directed to indoor assignments to match the trends.

Over long holiday season breaks, like Thanksgiving and winter term, the University police department focuses on patrolling indoors to offset potential thefts and burglaries.

“It may be that if because a building is locked, folks with bad intentions are going to places that are more public, it may make [UMPD’s] job easier,” said Brian Swanson, assistant vice president of University Services.

The crime migration isn’t limited to thefts, Miner said. Monitoring for underage alcohol use increases in residence halls and off-campus apartments, he said.

“They do some surveillance and foot patrols in plain clothes,” Miner said. “Sometimes they are able to discover things that a uniformed police officer might not be able to discover.”

With winter weather, new trends

Swanson said there will be a boost in winter campus policing compared to previous years, largely because of the Minnesota Vikings’ presence at TCF Bank Stadium and the accompanying increase in pedestrian traffic.

This will be the campus’s first winter with a completed Building Access Program, which requires a change in door-access hours for University buildings during certain times and vacation breaks, Swanson said.

As University Services officials configure building access schedules, Swanson said, they consider and prioritize how to make sure no one is locked outside in the cold.

Because of the harsh winter conditions, Swanson said, building accessibility for University community members will most likely increase in the coming weeks and months.

“If you’re here after regular business hours and you’re trying to get in a building and go through the building as a way to stay warm,” Swanson said, “your U Card will get you into more buildings than in the old days when you needed to have a key.”

As the temperatures drop, Swanson said, bicycle-related issues, whether traffic violations or thefts, tend to decrease.

Justin Yarrington, program manager for the University’s Security Monitor Program, said in an email interview that security monitors have also witnessed activity changes with the winter season.

Yarrington, who has been the program manager for five years, said the increased activity in cold months doesn’t necessarily mean security monitors have more police interactions.

He said their role as “the eyes and ears for the department” doesn’t change with the seasons.

There are also more cases of homeless people trespassing within University buildings to find warmth during the winter, Swanson said, adding that it’s unclear how the Building Access Program will affect those situations.

He said balancing building availability with the ability to lock down to ensure safety has always been the program’s goal.

“Winter would be a test of that program,” Swanson said.