As students return to U of M campus, local officials highlight public safety efforts

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Wednesday, local officials spoke about recent efforts to boost public safety on and near the University of Minnesota campus in the Twin Cities.

University President Joan Gabel said at the news conference that university officials have increased lighting on campus, as well as blue light kiosk access for emergency calls and Gopher Chauffeur escort services for students needing rides, particularly on weekends.

Gabel said the university is also partnering with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, Metro Transit police, and the Minnesota State Patrol for more patrols in the area to assist university police.

To that end, Lt. Gordon Shank, with the Minnesota State Patrol, said Wednesday that state troopers will be on campus this week, as students return to class, to help support university police and Minneapolis police in their patrols.

Gabel said these additional public safety efforts followed recent listening sessions involving students, staff and local community and business members.

Touching on recent crime, University of Minnesota Police Chief Matt Clark said his department has seen increases in off-campus crime during the past two years.

“I don’t have the specific numbers for this year but it’s about on pace for what we saw the last two years,” Clark said about crime near campus this year.

Meanwhile, Clark said on-campus crime this year has been slightly less than average and that the number of on-campus violent crime incidents typically hovers around 20-24 incidents per year.

“I know that the officers are really proud about keeping crime down on campus but also focusing on off-campus areas where we see crime increases,” Clark said.

Clark said that part of the back-to-school safety plan is to encourage students to use the escort service, keep their phones out of sight, pay attention to their surroundings and look out for each other.

Looking ahead, Gabel said university officials anticipate making additional requests of the state legislature to make “even deeper investments into safety.”

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan also attended the news conference.

Walz addressed students and staff, saying, in part, “Our job is to listen and get that right and make sure you feel safe in all aspects of your time here at the University of Minnesota.”