U trespass policy may curb thefts on campus

Thefts have decreased 50 percent since 1995 due to this policy.

Kyle Sando

For decades, University of Minnesota police have grappled with the high crime rates that come with an urban campus.

For that reason, the department started cracking down on trespassers some years ago. Now, itâÄôs yielding results.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said total thefts on campus have been cut in half, from 1,263 in 1995 to 568 in 2010. Miner attributes that drop to the UniversityâÄôs increased vigilance over trespassing.

He said most of the crimes on campus are committed by people who are not affiliated with the University.

Since the policeâÄôs efforts began in 1995, every person cited for trespassing is entered into a database that keeps names on file for 10 years. This helps the police keep track of repeat offenders, Miner said.

Edgar Coleman, for example, has been cited 31 times for trespassing by University police since 2001. Police records show that officers have come in contact with him 91 times. Coleman is homeless and often roams the East Bank.

The people caught trespassing are banned from both the building where they were cited and the campus on the same side of the river for one year.

Miner said revoking trespassersâÄô rights to enter the building is like a âÄúrestraining order,âÄù and discourages thieves and other criminals who may have their eye on the University as a place to commit crimes.

MinerâÄôs department adds about six people to the trespass list a month, and currently has 114 people on it. Miner said this number has been increasing in the past few years. He attributed the increase to a change in policy by the University Bookstore in Coffman Union, which lists shoplifters as trespassers.

About once a week, someone is cited for shoplifting and is banned from the bookstore but usually not from any buildings, Miner said.

The University trespass policy is clear in its criteria for who can be banned from the UniversityâÄôs buildings, Miner said. Disruptive behavior is the most common reason, but police cite people for harassment or for making threats as well.

University police also keep a closer watch on repeat trespassers.

With his 31st citation, Coleman was arrested and taken to Hennepin County Jail. The police discovered a warrant out for his arrest due to trespassing.

Matt Bowers, a library manager in charge of security, said he has dealt with Coleman and many of the homeless population for years.

âÄúHeâÄôs usually fairly quiet,âÄù Bowers said of Coleman. âÄúHe minds his own business.âÄù

Miner said regular trespassers are a consistent concern and are often cited many times.

âÄúItâÄôs kind of a revolving door,âÄù he said.

Miner said his officers only cite people for trespassing when necessary, and only cite students in exceptional circumstances.

âÄúWe certainly donâÄôt hand them out like candy or anything,âÄù he said.