ST. PAUL, Minn. — Campus and city police forces assured Minnesota lawmakers Tuesday that they've stepped up patrols and security features around Twin Cities-area colleges as a response to brash crimes affecting students.
Several law enforcement and college officials told the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee that they're elevating their presence to try to ward off crime. Reports of sexual assaults and armed robberies have put students, staff and others on edge, particularly near the University of Minnesota's flagship campus.
"We are very concerned about the perception that our campus is not safe," said university vice president Pam Wheelock.
The committee chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, said the hearing was meant to discuss what has been working and what else can be done to make campuses safer.
"We are not here to instill fear," she said. "Rather, we are here to combat it. We are here because we are a community and we have a moral obligation to keep each other safe."
At the University of Minnesota, the campus police chief said his team has logged more than 200 overtime hours this fall. The city of Minneapolis police force has also added to its patrols of neighborhoods around the sprawling campus.
Authorities have more readily used special alert systems to warn of crime trends. They've also been going door-to-door and employing other publicity measures to advise students to be more cognizant of their surroundings.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said he suspects students have been targeted by thieves because they are often carrying laptops and have phones out in the open. But he said crime trends around campuses don't appear to be out of line with patterns elsewhere.
Stanek urged students to move about in groups, especially after dark, and to keep electronics out of sight. Minneapolis city councilman Don Samuels said students need to take extra precautions with their smartphones that have fed a rash of snatch-and-run incidents.
"Basically, they're so small and so valuable they have become untethered jewelry," Samuels testified. "It's almost like carrying around a bunch of 20s in your hand."
No specific legislation was discussed.