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UMN, others advocate safety improvements in Dinky

About 35 people attended a safety walk through Dinkytown Friday night to learn more about safety issues near campus and advocate for more lighting.
Image by Ainsley Brown
Nick Juarez talked about the emergency blue light kiosks on campus during the safety walk. About 35 people attended the walk.

The University of Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) organized their second fall safety walk around Dinkytown Friday night to discuss safety concerns in the area.

About 35 people, including parents, alumni and University regents, joined the walk to learn how the University is working to lower crime.

Dinkytown was busy the Friday before Halloween, with many students in costume walking around. Those participating in the tour met at Qdoba and walked along University Avenue through Dinkytown and a Marcy-Holmes residential neighborhood.

DPS Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion Nick Juarez led the walk, joined by officers of the University police department, University security officers and a few Dinkytown safety guides. Along the way, Juarez stopped to point out safety concerns he observed, such as a lack of street lights lining sidewalks in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

“We’re trying to work with the Greek community, work with the City of Minneapolis, other private organizations, to see if we can improve that lighting,” Juarez said.

Minneapolis Ward 3 Council Member Michael Rainville, who represents the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, spoke briefly to those attending the walk to share his support for investing more in public safety infrastructure near campus.

“I want you to know that you’re not alone in what you’re doing,” Rainville said. “There’s a lot of people supporting you.”

In September, the University called for $2.8 million from Mayor Jacob Frey’s proposed $14 million city-wide street lighting funding plan to be invested near campus. The City Council will vote on the initiative in December.

The first Dinkytown safety walk was held over Homecoming weekend, and organizers planned Friday’s walk for Parent and Family Weekend to include parents of University students in conversations about student safety near the University.

Catherine Edwards came to the walk out of concern for her son’s safety, who is a first-year University student. However, she said after participating, she feels optimistic about the University’s commitment to lower crime this year.

“I was really impressed that the University is doing a safety walk to familiarize what the University police force is doing to keep students safe while they’re here,” Edwards said.

Alum and parent of a University student Julie Wicklund also attended the walk to advocate for expanding local safety investments city-wide after she was robbed at gunpoint in her southwest Minneapolis home last year.

“Really just trying to learn and help people in an action-oriented way to do something about it,” Wicklund said.

Juarez encouraged students to use University resources provided on and near campus, such as the emergency blue light kiosks and the 624-WALK Service that provides students with free walking and vehicle escorts.

While Friday’s safety walk saw higher turnout than the one during Homecoming weekend, few undergraduate students participated. Board members of the nonprofit Campus Safety Coalition, including recent University graduate Morgan McElroy, said the group hopes to involve more students with safety activism like the walks.

“I think one of the big goals right now is to get the students involved,” McElroy said. “We’ve been getting a lot of parent involvement and a lot of parent advocacy, but the needle can only move so far until the students are involved.”

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