Minneapolis police organize public safety walk near U

Responding to safety concerns near the University of Minnesota campus, Minneapolis police are hosting a public safety walk tonight through neighborhoods near campus.

Officers hope residents will come out and share ways to prevent crime, such as identifying areas that need more light, said Nick Juarez, a crime prevention specialist for Minneapolis police’s second precinct. Officers will also offer safety tips and ask people to turn on their porch lights to create a “walking corridor” along some routes near campus, Juarez said.

Campus crime fell by 43 percent from 2002 through 2012, university officials say, although there have been a rise in crimes on and off campus this fall. Some of those crimes have been particularly brazen. Those include an assault on Nov. 27. As a University of Minnesota student walked alone near TCF Bank Stadium just after midnight, a man got out of a car and tried to kidnap her, according to a university police crime alert. The student fought back with pepper spray, but the man turned it on her and pushed her to the ground before driving away.

Three days earlier, according to another crime alert, another student was taken into an SUV and sexually assaulted by a man who posed as an officer early on a Sunday morning — just blocks from the commotion of Dinkytown.

A student-led online petition calling for increased security on and near campus has received more than 3,500 signatures.

A state Senate panel will meet Tuesday to discuss safety on metro area college campuses.

The U has boosted police presence around campus and increased service availability of the Gopher Chauffer, a free ride home service for students on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Some, though, say more could be done to address the recent assaults and robberies.

State Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, who represents some neighborhoods around the U campus, said she’s heard from concerned parents of U students.

“Some have commented on how a lot of the students are doing what they’re supposed to do — they are walking in groups — and they’re still just nervous,” she said.