University of Minnesota receives campus security progress report

A huge investment in technology to improve safety at the University of Minnesota appears to have paid off, but the one thing that might help keep students safe has little to do with surveillance cameras and access cards.

Since 2013, the University of Minnesota has spent $4 million to improve campus security by installing 3,000 cameras on campus, 4000 card readers, and 60,000 alarms, which are all monitored 24/7 right now.

On Thursday, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents received a public safety update. But during the meeting, the Board of Regents still had questions and concerns when it comes to campus safety, specifically about areas that are still very dark - whether it’s actually on campus or not.

“Certainly surrounding the campus,” said Mike Berthelsen, the interim vice president of the Board of Regents. “Actually made a map of which light post belongs to whom and found quite a lot of different owners between park board or the city or the utility or the university, which helps us now respond to outages faster to notify the right person.”

It was clear lighting will always be a concern. In fact, the next focus will be on campus tunnels, which can seem dark and rather isolated.  With that said, most crime is actually down, with a slight uptick in robberies at seven for 2015 and five for sexual assault.

“It’s hard to pin down whether it’s an actual increase or an increase in reporting,” said Chief Matt Clark of the University of Minnesota Police Department. “So one thing we started last year was ‘you can tell us.’ And that campaign was about letting victims of sexual assault know that you can come and tell us.”

But the chief said what might be most effective in fighting sexual assault and all crime isn’t technology, but student education and training.

“The students have been very receptive to taking our advice, working with each other, taking care of each other,” said Clark. “Watching out for each other and walking in groups. And that in and of itself, that personal safety thing is what keeps our students safe and keeps them focused on school.”

Everyone agrees that when it comes to campus security – safety will always and forever be a challenge.

“Safety is something we can never check off and say done because we are a campus that has people coming and going all the time,” said Berthelsen.