More security greets U of M students

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, August 27, 2014

By Alex Friedrich FM

Minneapolis — In the wake of a surge in crime near the University of Minnesota last year, this year’s crop of new students will see more police, stricter building access and a heightened discussion of safety.

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University officials have stepped up security to protect students and prepare for a wave of outsiders flowing through the campus now that it includes a Green Line light rail stop. Students could encounter rowdier Sundays when the Minnesota Vikings play in TCF Bank Stadium.

“We think we have a better-informed, wiser community as compared to a year ago,” said Pam Wheelock, vice president for university services.

Last fall, a spike in crime rattled the campus community, which includes about 7,000 students who live on campus and thousands more in surrounding neighborhoods. The area suffered 26 robberies, including four on campus — a 50 percent increase over the fall average of 17.

With student apprehension up over last year, “the vibe has changed,” said Minnesota Student Association President Joelle Stangler.

Since then, the university has boosted campus security and education to prevent another surge this fall.

Its $4 million plan includes a number of security improvements:

Restricted building access. U of M has activated key-card security systems and restricted public access in more than 140 buildings on both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. University leaders are focusing next on securing tunnels and skyways.

More secure exteriors. Officials have focused 16 new cameras on high-traffic outside areas such as University Avenue and Church Street. They add to the 1,600 cameras already on campus. The U also has improved the lighting between residence halls and in high-traffic areas outside.

More safe transportation. Students will benefit from expanded late-night bus and safety-escort services during the week and on weekends.

More police presence. The campus police department has added three full-time officers, raising the number of sworn officers to 50. The U will ramp up police presence as needed if crime increases, Wheelock said, and more public-safety personnel will also be present on Vikings game days.