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Parents concerned over increasing crime near University of Minnesota campus

University of Minnesota leadership hoping to allay fears, change perceptions before students return
University of Minnesota leadership hoping to allay fears, change perceptions before students return 03:00

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sending your child off to college is always stressful, but this year parents say they have the added worry about increasing crime in the Twin Cities.

"Right now what I'm seeing is concerning to me," Holly Smith, a Green Bay mom whose daughter is an incoming freshman at the University of Minnesota. "What you see on the news is the worst of the worst a lot of times, but I do feel like when speaking with other parents who are in Minneapolis, there is a lot of concern among folks."

Indeed, there's increasing chatter among parents, including a 1,500+ member Facebook group, where discussions often focus on what is being done on campus to promote safety in and around the U.

At a Board of Regents committee meeting in June, the campus police chief told members that crime in nearby off-campus neighborhoods has jumped roughly 45% since 2018. The campus police department, meanwhile, is down to just 48 police officers - more than a dozen less than what's budgeted.

"What my perception is that there are a lot of people who care and a lot of people who want to fix problems, but I don't see a lot of collaboration that's making a collective change," Smith said. "My daughter has a good head on her shoulders, but part of why she wanted to attend the U is she wanted to explore the city. I wouldn't feel comfortable with her doing that at the moment, other than daylight hours with a group."

Administrators have already scheduled a safety forum for July 11 that will include updates from Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Minneapolis Interim Chief of Police Amelia Huffman, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel, and University of Minnesota Police Chief Clark, among others. 

James Farnsworth, a member of the board of regents, is also holding a listening sessions with parents, including one on Wednesday night.

"The whole reason I put together this event is because there's an engagement piece," Farnsworth told WCCO. "We need to show we're actively listening and collaborating with folks."

According to Farnsworth and other university administrators, collaboration has already improved at off-campus locations like Dinkytown, where the U has fulfilled campus police's entire budget request for overtime patrols. Investments in security upgrades also total "in the millions", including more lighting, more security cameras, and safety guides, among other things.

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