MINNEAPOLIS – The University of Minnesota held what amounted to a safety summit on the campus Tuesday afternoon.
University officials were joined by police, legislators and student representatives for the two hour public idea exchange.
University President Eric Kaler and Vice President Pamela Wheelock joined Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau, University Police Chief Greg Hestness and Transit Police Chief John Harrington in bringing those in attendance up to speed on the crime situation on and around the University campus.
Kaler called it a "full court press" against a rash of recent assaults and robberies, mainly in neighborhoods around the campus. Kaler did point out that statistics show crime has been dropping over the last 10 years.
"But those statistics are poor comfort to people who are victims of crime," said Kaler. "We are concerned about this recent uptick. We are concerned about the presence of weapons in some of these crimes."
"Part of it is inevitable," said Harteau. "Part of it is just a trend. This is not just a university issue. This is a city of Minneapolis issue with the robberies. It is a nationwide issue. It is because of smart phones. They are just worth a lot of money and you can turn them around fairly quickly and it is a hard crime to not only prevent, but to make arrests in."
Inspector Kathy Waite, of the 2nd Precinct, which includes areas around the U of M campus, is adding seven additional officers. Six of those officers will be on the street in early February.
Wheelock noted that the Green Line of the Light Rail Transit system will open in June.
"It is a big unknown for us about just what the advantages and potential disadvantages will be of having the light rail run down the middle of the campus," she said.
Student representatives said the administration is doing a good job of keeping students informed about crimes and safety precautions.
"I think the ongoing emails that we get remind us that things have happened that make people aware that there are problems and that creates less of a sense of safety than I think people felt before." said Brittany Edwards, President of the Graduate and Professional students Association.
Michael Schmit, President of the Minnesota Student Association, said concern over the crime situation comes and goes.
"It has sort of subsided a little bit in the back of students' minds," said Schmit. "Earlier this Fall, it was definitely a top concern. I think maybe now it is number two or number three."
Schmit said that complacency might remain "as long as the crime rate stays down."