Give University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and his staff credit for moving quickly to address growing concerns about campus-area crime.
The U announced Tuesday that it would add campus police, install new security cameras and improve lighting as part of a response to a string of high-profile assaults and robberies last fall on and near the Twin Cities campus.
In taking the lead on the issue, Kaler signaled the importance of maintaining the U’s reputation as being in a safe urban setting that offers the best of campus and city living. But clearly, successfully combating crime will take collaboration from city and county officials, Minneapolis police, and student groups.
“Our campus and surrounding neighborhoods must be a safe place for the university community to study, work and live,” Kaler said in a news release, acknowledging nearby residential areas that are outside of campus boundaries but that are home to more and more students.
About 7,000 apartment units have been added near campus and another 7,000 are on the way, making off-campus neighborhoods more densely populated. More of the U’s 51,000 students are walking and biking to campus — a positive trend as long as public safety is maintained.
Serious crime has declined for 11 years, but last fall’s two sexual assaults and about two dozen robberies on and near campus have put students and their parents on high alert. “My daughter attends the University of Minnesota, and we are all aware of the massive growth in crime on campus,” an Edina woman wrote in a December letter the editor.
While the uptick is nowhere near “massive,” it’s understandable that students, parents and U employees would demand a significant response from university officials. Other steps outlined Tuesday include launching SAFE U, a student awareness campaign, and expanding bus and free transportation services at night. By the end of spring semester, a new building-access program will be in effect, requiring ID cards to enter facilities outside of regular hours.
In another positive development, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. — answering a plea from this page and from law enforcement officials — said at a campus event Tuesday that she would introduce legislation designed to render cellphones useless if stolen. Many victims have been targeted for cellphones, laptops and tablets in what police call “Apple picking.”
None of the tactics announced this week, taken on their own, will do enough to enhance public safety at the U. But all of the security initiatives now underway or planned — including Klobuchar’s “kill switch” legislation — make up the kind of comprehensive approach that’s necessary.