Cooperation among law enforcement agencies and communication with students are crucial to improving safety on the University of Minnesota campus and in nearby neighborhoods.
That was the consensus among police, community and student leaders who gathered Tuesday on the Minneapolis campus to talk about preventing crime, an issue much in the limelight recently in the wake of highly publicized robberies in the area. The summit was linked to a campus safety initiative.
University Police Chief Greg Hestness said that since September, the area has had 32 robberies, with about 50 percent involving firearms.
The initiative, which aims to address short- and long-term safety concerns in the area, includes new infrastructure, such as brighter streetlights and more security cameras, a greater police presence and the "SAFE U" program, designed to increase student awareness.
Another aspect will be police collaboration, participants said. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington vowed coordinated support for university efforts.
"I want to give you my personal commitment that this university will be a better partner as we move forward," university President Eric Kaler said.
Inspector Kathy Waite, Minneapolis police's Second Precinct commander, said it's also important for area businesses to be part of the initiative. Many of their young customers are out late at night, when most of the robberies take place, she said. "They need to come to the table, too," Waite said.
She also urged all of those involved in anti-crime efforts to talk to residents and landlords in neighborhoods where crimes have occurred. "We really need the partners out in the community to assist us in solving a lot of these problems," she said.
She said that for their part, police officers are increasing their visibility in the area with such strategies as more bike patrols and distribution of fliers with safety tips at bars near campus.
Students should "be aware of their surroundings and be responsible for themselves, but also for their friends, their classmates, people around them," said Michael Schmit, president of the Minnesota Student Association.
Brittany Edwards, president of the U's Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, said she'd like to see more students involved in their neighborhood organizations, such as block clubs.
Kaler said that all of the strategies discussed will be part of the U's efforts. "Working relationships between the university and [other] agencies" are critical, he said.
Danielle Dullinger is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.