Monday, January 27, 2014
An increased emphasis on safety
As students returned to classes on the Twin Cities campus on January 21, they were greeted with the news that University of Minnesota leaders are focusing on multi-pronged initiative to promote and increase safety on and near campus.
Some of the students who wandered into Coffman Union that morning were able to grab coffee and a pastry and talk to officers from the University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD)—whose ranks have recently expanded—at a special “Coffee and Donuts with the Cops” event.
The comprehensive approach to increased safety involves a number of University offices, along with student government, local law enforcement agency partners, public officials, and nearby neighborhoods.
"The University has a responsibility to create and sustain safe and secure places on campus," says Pam Wheelock, vice president for University Services, which manages UMPD, facilities, and other operations of the Twin Cities campus. "Beyond physical and operational safety, our short- and long-term initiatives are based on a shared culture of safety. We need the University community to adopt safe practices, and we need strong and effective partnerships with our public safety partners."
The safety initiative is focused on four areas: education, enforcement, environment, and engagement.
The U will continue to inform the campus community about safety concerns via Crime Alerts and Public Safety Updates, while collaborating with student government and other campus leaders to spread awareness among students regarding safety tips and resources. For example:
- SAFE U, a new student awareness campaign that includes posters, table tents, digital signs, social media outreach, and a web presence, rolled out last week.
- An enhanced "Safety and U" website provides current information, including what the U is doing to promote safety and steps the U community can take to promote safety for themselves and others.
- The Office for Student Affairs is exploring expanding self-defense and personal safety workshops, in addition to several for-credit options that already exist.
- Student Affairs is also reviewing its procedures for assisting victims of crime. While The Aurora Center actively works to assist victims of sexual violence, opportunities are being explored to better connect victims of other crimes with available University and community resources.
The U will continue to deploy undercover and uniformed police patrols both on campus—and off campus in conjunction with local law enforcement—to prevent crimes and to catch criminals. Targeted and aggressive patrols on campus and in adjacent neighborhoods by UMPD, in collaboration with partner agencies, resulted in more than 20 arrests and gun seizures since September. Initiatives include:
- UMPD added three officers in mid-December, increasing its ranks to 50.
- UMPD will add four officers to existing department resources from 9:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays during the spring semester.
- University Services and UMPD will add 20-30 additional student staff to the Security Monitor Program to reach a total of 150, while increasing the hourly pay rate for student monitors.
- UMPD will continue to collaborate with the Minneapolis Police Department 2nd Precinct, the Metro Transit Police Department, the Hennepin County Sherriff’s Office, and the Minnesota State Patrol.
- The U stands in support of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges’ stated goal of increasing the Minneapolis Police force and will continue to build a working relationship with Minneapolis’ new administration.
The University has identified opportunities to make the physical environment on and near campus safer.
The University will upgrade transportation by:
- Extending hours of the Campus Connector bus service between the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses to 2 a.m., seven days a week, during spring semester.
- Extending the hours of the Washington Ave. Bridge Circulator and East Bank Circulator bus services to 2 a.m., Monday through Thursday, starting today.
- Implementing a new Weekend Circulator bus service between the East and West Banks. The bus will run 6:30 p.m. Fridays to 2 a.m. Saturdays; 9:30 a.m. Saturdays to 2 a.m. Sundays; and 9:30 a.m. Sundays until 2 a.m. Mondays.
- Expanding the Gopher Chauffeur for a second time. The free transportation service will operate from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights this spring.
The U will also address highly traveled pathways on and surrounding campus by:
- Immediately changing light fixtures from yellow sodium bulbs to white metal halide bulbs—to increase the brightness and consistency of light—along the campus side of University Avenue between 12th and Oak Streets.
- Developing a plan to improve lighting in other high-traveled corridors, including Church Street north of Washington Avenue.
- Continuing to work with Xcel Energy to fix burned out or other problem lighting fixtures off campus.
- Developing a plan to add security cameras on highly traveled pedestrian routes (e.g., University Avenue and Church Street).
Work is also underway to balance the University’s traditionally public and open buildings with current security realities. An improved building access program will be in place by the end of the spring semester, which will limit access without proper student, faculty, or staff identification cards outside of regular University business hours. Implementation will roll out as building access card readers are upgraded on the Twin Cities campus throughout the spring semester.
The safety of students, faculty, and staff is of the highest priority at the University of Minnesota. The campus and surrounding neighborhoods will all be safer when everyone plays a role in promoting and encouraging safety. University leaders are committed to strengthening these partnerships by:
- Planning a "Town Hall" meeting in the coming weeks so that students can interact directly with President Eric Kaler and others regarding public safety.
- Engaging with African American students, faculty, and staff at a Jan. 29 forum to discuss campus safety and the impact of racial profiling and racial stereotypes on campus climate, along with ways to address these issues together.
- Playing a lead role in convening a metro-wide "Public Safety Summit" with law enforcement agencies, public safety experts, and civic leaders.
- Focusing University outreach to nearby neighborhoods, landlords, and the business community to encourage them to develop and implement their own local safety-related investments.
- Advocating for federal and state legislation mandating "kill switch" technology and other measures to discourage the resale of stolen electronic devices.
For updates about the University’s public safety efforts, as well as important safety information, go to umn.edu/prepared.