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For Clairo, “the third time’s the Charm.”
Review: “Charm” by Clairo
Published July 21, 2024

Department of Public Safety gives spring campus safety update

At the Board of Regents meeting, UMPD Chief Matt Clark spoke on 2023 crime statistics, on- and off-campus safety and 2024 initiatives.
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Image by Alex Steil
A UMPD police officer on Northrop Mall on Feb. 1, 2024. Though UMPD would like to do more, Clark said its staff is already “stretched pretty thin.”

University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) Chief Matt Clark gave an update on the department’s ongoing public safety efforts and 2024 initiatives to the Board of Regents at the Board’s meeting on Friday.

Clark discussed 2023 crime statistics, including on- and off-campus safety, staffing issues and department initiatives for 2024.

Crime statistics in 2023: On- and off-campus safety

Clark said there was a slight increase in violent crime from 2022 to 2023, with 31 events of violent crime in 2023 and 23 in 2022. According to Clark, half of these incidents were related to criminal sexual conduct where all but one were known suspects.

Aggravated assault incidents also rose from six to eight and robberies increased from four to seven, Clark said.

“It would be better if we were at zero for campus crime, what we strive to achieve,” Clark said. “But that is still a relatively low number considering the number of people and space we occupy between St. Paul and Minneapolis.”

Clark added one of the highest areas of crime incidents was theft on campus. As opposed to incidents of burglary, which involve residential spaces like University residence halls, theft occurs when someone takes something from areas open to the public.

There were 412 events of theft on campus in 2023, an 8% reduction from the 450 events in 2022, according to Clark. UMPD is still holding thefts at a low level, compared with 577 theft events pre-pandemic, which Clark said is due to Department of Public Safety (DPS) security staff as well as the securing of University buildings by making them U Card access only.

There were just over 60 events of auto theft in 2022 and 2023, which increased from 2021. Clark said this is a metro-wide issue UMPD is planning to partner with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) to combat, specifically in the area of juvenile auto theft. 

According to Clark, Dinkytown saw approximately a 60% reduction in violent crime in the last two years, with 87 incidents of violent crime in 2021, 66 in 2022 and 28 in 2023. Clark said these numbers are specifically driven by robberies. 

Clark said he thought these numbers were reduced by the work UMPD did with MPD and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, as well as community engagement and safety education, which UMPD will continue to do through the rest of this year.

UMPD placed two officers in Dinkytown every night for the last two years with more on the weekends, Clark said. Similarly, UMPD officers have filled two shifts every day on transit lines at the request of the transit department and students, according to a DPS yearly survey. 

According to Clark, UMPD is also trying to fill supplemental shifts on campus to ensure UMPD is not off campus more than they are on campus and is responding to calls as quickly as possible, though it is difficult. 

“We are stretched pretty thin in terms of our personnel and the amount we’re going to work,” Clark said. 

Staffing issues

UMPD responded to over 20,000 calls on campus in 2023, according to Clark. The majority of these were 911 calls, though many others required proactive patrols and enforcement.

According to Clark, 43% of off-campus service-related calls came from Dinkytown. 

“We are putting a number of investments off campus but our core responsibility is campus,” Clark said.”

According to Clark, UMPD currently employs 58 police officers and 31 security personnel, though it is authorized for 73 police officers and 41 security personnel. 

Up from 46 police officers two years ago, Clark said UMPD is “trending in the right direction, but [is] not fully staffed at this point.”

Clark credits high competition for good officers in the metro area as well as the lengthy process to hire an officer under current state standards. He added although UMPD is receiving many applications, it is turning away applicants who do not fit the diverse community and atmosphere of the University. 

“For the University, I’d rather go with less than have the wrong officer working here,” Clark said. “I want somebody that can switch hats easily, that is a guardian and also an ambassador to the University and really enjoys working with young people.”

Clark asked for the Board’s continued support in hiring more staff. 

Initiatives for 2024

Given police staffing issues throughout the metro area, Clark said UMPD is hoping for a mutual aid expansion with MPD.

According to Clark, MPD has a limited capacity to handle all 911 calls in its jurisdiction. A mutual aid expansion would allow UMPD to help respond to certain MPD calls in the University’s surrounding neighborhoods.

Clark said UMPD has been providing safety responses to high-priority calls in MPD jurisdiction for several years and has spoken to MPD Chief Brian O’Hara about expanding UMPD response to lower-priority 911 calls as well. 

The expansion would enable UMPD to respond to 911 calls in Dinkytown, specifically the areas of University Avenue to 4th Street and 35W to 19th Avenue Southeast.

“That is a very specific area for the University,” Clark said. “We have a lot of Greek life [residents] there, we have a lot of student housing as well and we do have University infrastructure scattered within that 10 block area.”

Clark also discussed the introduction of an off-campus safety center to increase safety education, resources and engagement in off-campus areas. The center would serve as a location for safety ambassadors, community elders and first responders.

As they look for a location, Clark said the earliest UMPD could introduce an off-campus safety center is fall 2024. 

Clark also recognized the deaths of the three first responders killed in Burnsville on Feb. 18. One of the two Burnsville police officers killed, Paul Elmstrand, was a former UMPD officer who spent two years working with the department.

“We greatly appreciate his service to the University campus and we recognize his sacrifice and the sacrifices of Matthew Ruge and Adam Finseth on February 18,” Clark said.

Interim President Jeff Ettinger said he has been long aware of public safety concerns and it has been one of his highest priorities since coming to the University. 

“Despite all our best efforts, occasionally there are incidents of concern on or near campus that affect our students and our greater community,” Ettinger said. “I’d like to thank all of our teams who work tirelessly to make our campuses safe. Chief Clark and our U of M Public Safety Department deserve a special thanks for their efforts.”

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