|(7 on campus)||(3.25 on campus)|
This past year, the University of Minnesota community saw a 28 percent increase in robberies compared to average annual totals from the previous four academic years, university data shows.
Between September and May, 46 hold-ups occurred — six on campus, and the rest in surrounding neighborhoods. In the four prior years, the average was 36, including three on campus.
Much of the increase was due to last fall’s spike in crime, when the community suffered 26 robberies – including four on campus. That amounted to a 50 percent increase over the fall average of 17.
After the surge, crime near the U cooled off. In the winter and spring, the 20 reported robberies were only slightly above the average of 18.5 – a figure university officials said they expected.
“It ebbs and flows at times,” said university spokesman Tim Busse. “I think it reflects the city of Minneapolis in general.”
Campus safety has been a hot topic at the U ever since last fall’s rash of violent crime, which often involved students being robbed at gunpoint.
Campus leaders said they were concerned about the increasingly “brazen” nature of the robberies. Many incidents involved groups of people, or – as in an attempted robbery in Anderson Hall last November — happened in the light of day.
The surge prompted a student petition for a stronger police presence on campus, a Senate hearing on campus safety, and a university forum in which campus officials and local law enforcement representatives discussed safety.
Working with city police and other law enforcement agencies, the U took some short- and long-term measures to fight the crime, such as beefing up police patrols, installing security-card systems in many buildings, and improving campus lighting.
The security ramp-up increased tension among African-American students and faculty, many of whom expressed suspicion that police were racially profiling black males.
So far, public safety discussions have largely focused on the academic year — not the summer months of June, July and August. That’s outside the traditional academic calendar, and a time when most students are gone.
But last summer saw a noticeable boost in crime as well.
During those three months, 13 robberies occurred — including one on campus – which is more than double the four-year average of six. The previous summer saw 10 off-campus robberies, but none of the preceding four years had seen a robbery on campus.
Busse also acknowledged the increase in robberies over the past summer or two, but said it’s not clear what caused it. He said the recent proliferation of student housing around the U may mean more students are in town over the summer, which may present more opportunities for crime.
Overall, Busse said, U officials have seen “increasing numbers” of robberies since 2009, but said numbers have been “up and down” year by year with no clear pattern.
“I don’t know if there’s a long-term trend that we’re seeing here,” he said.
Busse said the U is finalizing safety plans for this next year, and had no specifics about what campus leaders plan to do.
He did say officials will monitor the campus this fall and work with law enforcement agencies “to ensure the campus — and the neighborhoods around campus — are safe. And we will certainly work to prevent to prevent the spike that we saw in robberies last fall.”