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University of Minnesota leaders outline multi-pronged initiative to promote safety on and near Twin Cities campus

Efforts to focus on ‘four Es’ of education, environment, enforcement and engagement

January 21, 2014

As the spring semester begins today, University of Minnesota leaders are focusing in on a multi-pronged initiative to promote safety on and near the Twin Cities campus. The approach, announced today, involves multiple University offices along with student government, local law enforcement agency partners, public officials and nearby neighborhoods, and is focused on four areas: education, environment, enforcement and engagement.

"Our campus and surrounding neighborhoods must be a safe place for the University community to study, work and live," said University President Eric Kaler. "We are implementing a wide-ranging approach that addresses immediate concerns and begins necessary, long-term security enhancements to the Twin Cities campus. Most importantly, it brings together our many internal resources and external partners in a collaborative way to make our campus as safe as possible."

While the number of on-campus, major criminal offenses continued its 11-year decline in 2013, robberies on and off campus increased during fall 2013. Meanwhile, the make-up of neighborhoods near campus continue to evolve, as nearly 7,000 new rental units have come online and more students choose to call these neighborhoods home. As a result, the number of students living near campus – along with their travel patterns – has changed significantly in recent years.

"The University has a responsibility to create and sustain safe and secure places on campus," said Pam Wheelock, vice president for University Services, which manages the University of Minnesota Police Department, 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."

Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young said student leaders and their peers play an important role in keeping each other safe this spring.

"While safety enhancements to our campus are important, students need to continue to be vigilant in watching out for each other’s safety, keeping electronic devices out of sight, utilizing well-traveled areas of campus and their neighborhoods, reporting crime immediately and being part of solutions to keep our campus safe," said Brown Young. "We can show our Gopher pride by coming together as a community and letting criminals know they won’t be successful here."

The University’s safety initiative focuses on:

Education
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, begins to roll out this week to heighten consciousness about the pressing issue of safety.
  • Enhanced "Safety and U" website designed to provide current information, including what the U is doing to promote safety and steps students and others 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.
  • Communicate proactively through local media and other vehicles to students, faculty, staff, parents, prospective students and others about public safety issues and efforts.

Environment
The University has identified immediate improvements and long-term opportunities for investments in the physical environment to make campus – particularly well-traveled corridors – 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, starting today.
  • 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 beginning Friday, Jan. 24. 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 during the semester starting Thursday, Jan. 23.

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 burnt 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).
  • Facilities and grounds crews also assessed landscaping on campus and found no need for immediate changes to ensure visibility and safe corridors.

Work is underway to balance the University’s traditionally public and open buildings with current security realities by:

  • Implementing a building access program 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. Plans and related budgets are currently being developed.
  • Contract work for converting all academic buildings on the Twin Cities campus to electronic card access has begun this week. Upgrades will allow the University to control building access more consistently and remotely.

Enforcement
The University will continue to deploy undercover and uniformed police patrols on campus – and off-campus in conjunction with other local law enforcement – to deter people seeking to do harm, 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.

Recent or new 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 staff, 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 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.

Engagement
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 student "Town Hall" meeting in the coming weeks, a forum for students to 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 – and ways to address these issues together in our community.
  • 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.

Twin Cities Campus: