Students and faculty returned to campus last week, leading to an uptick in crime from the summer months, according to University of Minnesota officials.
The University of Minnesota Police Department responded to 75 incidents during Welcome Week between Aug. 27 and Sept. 3, according to the department’s crime log. Instances of theft are more common as students move in, and UMPD officers said they encourage students to be aware of their surroundings.
“The amount of cases that we get at the beginning of every school year is a jump from what we’re used to in the summer,” said UMPD Chief Matt Clark.
Thefts made up nearly 30 percent of those incidents and remains the most prevalent crime that UMPD deals with, Clark said. Five bike thefts were reported, including one involving a UMPD bait bike.
Laptops and other electronics are often targets for thefts, said Library Safety and Security Coordinator Matthew Bowers. While Welcome Week saw nine thefts of electronics, University libraries did not report any.
“We usually get at least one or two laptops stolen or a cell phone,” Bowers said.
Thefts at the library spike during the first weeks of school as students establish a routine and during finals when “tunnel vision” sets in, Bowers said.
Incoming students learn safety basics through orientation and Welcome Week activities. The UMPD partners with University staff to develop programming, including screening a safety video during summer orientation.
“We talk about safety broadly,” said Jenny Porter, the director of student transition experiences.
Porter said orientation and Welcome Week allows students to learn safe habits in a repetitive way that reinforces using resources like 624-WALK and Gopher Chauffeur.
“It’s incumbent upon freshmen to understand how to keep themselves safe,” Clark added.
Freshman Brittany Zeldow said Welcome Week covered the safety basics and that she felt safe on campus, even at night.
“At first, I was a little freaked out, but after a few minutes I felt totally fine,” she said.
Zeldow said knowing how to navigate the city safely is an important skill.
“Know where you’re going and don’t stare at your phone,” Zeldow said about staying safe. “If I feel unsafe, I’ll call someone just to have someone on the phone with me.”
To stay safe on campus, Clark said students need to keep tabs on their belongings, travel with a group and contact the police with any crime information.
“Pay attention to your surroundings, stay alert and only carry what you need,” Bowers added.