Crime alerts raise concern of racial profiling at U

Groups at school are concerned. Kaler says U “won’t tolerate” bias.

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Since Aug. 1, there have been at least 17 robberies on and around the Minneapolis campus, according to crime alerts issued by the U police.

Photo: Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler

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A spate of campus crime alerts has raised concerns among black student and faculty groups about a rise in racial profiling around the University of Minnesota.

In a letter to the university president, the Black Faculty and Staff Association and other groups expressed alarm “about the recent increase in crime alerts in which the suspects are Black males,” saying they were fueling racial fears and racial profiling on campus.

“For a black man in particular, they walk around feeling like people think they are dangerous,” said Amber Jones, 20, president of the Black Student Union, one of six campus groups that cosigned the letter.

President Eric Kaler said Friday that while officials are being vigilant about safety concerns, “the University of Minnesota will not tolerate racial profiling … period.”

The concerns about the impact on the university’s black community continued to echo Friday, after the university issued another crime alert about a female student who was robbed at gunpoint near campus Wednesday morning. The suspect in that case was identified as a black man in his early 20s.

Jones said that her group joined in sending the letter, which was dated Dec. 6, to urge the university to do more to prevent racial profiling. Among other things, the letter called on the university to stop including the race of suspects in crime alerts, and to post the university’s policy against racial profiling on all future alerts.

“While we can’t control who the suspects are and what they look like, we do have opportunities to control racial profiling,” Jones said. “To be honest, this is something that we have to deal with across the country every day. But I definitely feel like, with the increase in crime … it’s definitely elevated.”

The letter noted that a black student was “wrongfully identified and publicized as the suspect” in a Nov. 11 attempted robbery at Anderson Hall.

“I know folks who have been stopped twice by the police in one day,” she said.

Kaler, in a written response, said that university police have been stopping and arresting suspects as part of a “strategy for reducing serious crime.” But he said the police target “suspicious activities,” not race. “If someone reports an incident of suspected profiling, we will investigate,” he wrote.

Jones said she’s been encouraged by the university’s response. “To be honest, we are seeing results,” she said.

Kaler has said that top officials would review the groups’ requests to address the growing concerns and “determine the next steps.”

Robberies up this year

The number of reported robberies on and near the Minneapolis campus is higher than average this year. U statistics show that 25 were reported from September through November, compared with an average of 18 for those three months each year since 2008.

On Monday, the state Senate held a special hearing to hear concerns from students and others about the string of armed holdups and sexual assaults on and around campus this semester. The most recent incident occurred about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, when a 21-year-old woman was approached by a man with a handgun near 6th Street and 14th Avenue SE. The man stole her backpack, containing her wallet, smartphone and iPad.

“I know it’s unsafe at night around campus,” said the woman, who asked that her identity not be published out of concern for her safety. “But I never think of crime … in daytime.”

 

mlerner@startribune.com • 612-673-7384 pwalsh @startribune.com • 612-673-4482

 

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