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Parents continue to press University of Minnesota, city leaders about crime concerns

A University of Minnesota regent organized a listening session for parents on Wednesday, as violent crime remains a top concern near campus.

ST PAUL, Minn. — University of Minnesota parents shared their thoughts on campus safety via Zoom and in person during a listening session at the state capitol on Wednesday evening, pressing school and city leaders to address rising violent crime near campus.

University of Minnesota Regent James Farnsworth hosted the hybrid forum, with physical space for the meeting facilitated at the capitol by GOP Representative Brian Daniels. The university will hold its own public event on campus next week, Monday evening, to discuss crime concerns.

Erin Brumm, whose son will be a junior at the U of M next year, said "now is the time" for action.

She has been especially vocal on the topic since videos surfaced this spring of shootings and fights near a non-student property on University Avenue. Overall, University of Minnesota Police say violent incidents in neighborhoods near campus have increased 45 percent since the start of the pandemic.

"It's really hard. It's the U of M, dropped into a very volatile situation," Brumm said in an interview before the meeting. "We really need to figure out a solution to this problem, because someone is going to pay with their life and it's really spinning out of control really fast."

Marcia Cotter, a U of M alumnus who now lives in South Carolina, said her son transferred into her alma mater from the University of Oklahoma.

"I wanted him to come here," Cotter said. "Not so much anymore."

While Regent Farnsworth led the meeting virtually, due to his participation in a conference in North Carolina, fellow regent Darrin Rosha attended the meeting in person on the third floor of the capitol. He told KARE 11 that he has recently learned of "specific examples" where parents or students have chosen not to attend the University of Minnesota due to the perception of crime.

"They're concerned. They want their kids to get a good, quality education at our land-grant university, and they don't want to stay up all night worrying about if their kids are safe," Rosha said. "I think that's a fair concern — one they would like to share with us and have been sharing with us for months."

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In response, the University of Minnesota has outlined a number of steps to improve security, including a financial investment in more overtime for UMPD officers to work alongside MPD. The school has also placed mobile lighting and surveillance units near crime hotspots, and may consider adding more non-sworn security personnel. 

Myron Frans, senior vice president for finance and operations, said in a letter to students and staff last month that the university will be launching a safety awareness campaign in August. 

Led by Frans, the university also made a $100 million public safety funding request to the state legislature this session, but the measure did not pass.

"I don't believe that has impacted our ability to improve public safety," Regent Rosha said. "The university has a $4.2 billion budget. If we have opportunities to improve safety, we certainly have the resources to do that and I think we should be making those investments with what we currently have."

Rosha said the administration should consider bolstering the university's police force, along with other security measures. 

"We have just approved the budget for the coming year, but we always have the capacity. We have endowment, we have investment, we can ask the Foundation for additional money," Rosha said. "When other opportunities arise, we find the money. So, there's no question we should be able to find the money for something as important as keeping our students, faculty, staff, and others on campus safe."

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