It was a meeting for parents, but University of Minnesota police Chief Greg Hestness stood before just five of them.

Instead, staring back at him were two television cameras and a handful of reporters.

"I want to thank you all for coming today, parents particularly," Hestness began. "This didn't really start out as a press conference."

Scheduled long before three men kidnapped and sexually assaulted a student last week, the meeting was meant to respond to parents' concerns about their children's safety on campus, especially after a student was shot there in January. (He's now back in class.)

Hestness addressed what he called "perception versus reality," passing out handouts. Data show that although there have been high-profile incidents, crime is actually down overall.

Chuck and Debbie Walter pressed the chief on their collaboration with Minneapolis police, their response to neighbors' observations of gang activity and why graffiti keeps showing up the area.

Their daughter, Chuck Walter said, "does not feel safe."

The TV cameramen moved in on their faces.

After the discussion moved on -- to ways students could reduce their risk of being robbed and the role of student escort services -- they packed up their tripods, took their microphones off Hestness' collar and left.

The tone changed. Police became parents.

"I have two daughters going here," said Bob Janoski, director of central security. "I worry about them all the time."

They explained that this week, Campus Safety Awareness Week, students would be asked to sign a pledge to keep their doors locked and "walk with a group after dark," among other things. Janoski outlined the high-tech ways police are monitoring campus. A spokeswoman showed off whistles they'd be handing out.

"Could you blow that whistle?" asked a parent in back.


"It's not loud enough for my daughter," the man said, "but you're on the right track."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168