University of Minnesota police are warning students, staff and neighbors to be on alert after a rash of sometimes violent robberies and thefts in the Dinkytown and Stadium Village areas of Minneapolis.
An alert sent out earlier in the week to the campus community said that since last Thursday, there have been 10 troubling crimes: four aggravated robberies, two robberies and four thefts from individuals. All of the incidents involved taking cellphones from students, according to police.
Police are asking students and others who move around on or near campus to take precautions such as avoiding cellphone use while walking.
"A distraction like this makes you an easier target," the police crime alert read. "Stay alert to your surroundings."
Police also advised that instead of walking alone, students should catch a ride on a campus shuttle bus. There are several routes running late at night. For more information, visit publicsafety.umn.edu/alerts.
One of the more violent incidents occurred midafternoon Sunday at SE. University and 14th avenues, where a young man took someone's phone and fled in a stolen vehicle. As the suspect drove off, he hit his victim with the car, causing minor injuries.
Late Saturday, a suspect used a handgun in a robbery near SE. 25th Avenue and Delaware Street, where two suspects assaulted their victim before driving off in an SUV.
Campus police offered no information about whether arrests have been made in any of the crimes. They provided suspect descriptions that emphasized what the perpetrators were wearing but offered few specifics about their ethnicity or other physical descriptions.
University spokeswoman Lacey Nygard said Wednesday that "unless we feel very confident" of the accuracy of a racial description provided to police or have a photo of a suspect, administrators have "made a decision not to include racial descriptors, because they are sometimes not accurate."
Nygard added that including a suspect's ethnicity "can make people feel that anyone of that race is a threat to them."
In the meantime, campus police said they are assisting the Minneapolis Police Department, which is leading the investigations.
The recent campus area crimes notwithstanding, Minneapolis police said they are seeing fewer phone thefts compared to 2020.
An average of fewer than 1.5 cellphone thefts per day have been reported so far this year vs. 1.75 for the same period last year, said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder.
While Minneapolis police are working with campus police "to target areas where we are seeing these thefts," Elder said people need to do all they can to protect their possessions.
"People need to truly understand this is a $400, $600, $1,000 piece of equipment," he said. "Would they set a thousand-dollar ring or watch on the bar and walk away from it? ... Obviously, we never want to victim-blame, but we want to share tips to keep them safe."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482