Crime records across U housing reinforce stereotypes

Analysis of five years of crime data shows that many dorms' reputations hold true.
A freshman cuts lines of a form of MDMA commonly referred to as Molly on Friday night.
March 05, 2014

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Four women knelt around an overturned storage bin in a Territorial Hall dorm room Friday night, each clutching a rolled-up $100 bill to her nose.

Four lines of Molly — a form of MDMA — sat below them. Orange juice and pretzel chips stood ready to wash away the taste.

“I’m sweating, you guys,” one woman said. “I’m so nervous.”

In Bailey Hall, an hour and a half later and about two miles away, eight people listened to electronic music in a dark dorm room.

Some smoked electronic cigarettes. Others chased gin with orange juice. Everyone looked relaxed.

When it comes to crime at the University of Minnesota, not all residence halls are equal. Over the past five years, some halls have seen more incidents than others, each with its own distribution of types of crime.

Most infractions are minor: Theft, underage drinking and drug offenses made up about 56 percent of all crime recorded by University police in University housing from fall 2008 to spring 2013.

Analysis of five years of crime data shows that many dorms’ reputations hold true.

The Superblock, a group of four residence halls considered a hub for parties, had nearly two-thirds of alcohol-related offenses across all 12 University housing options. Bailey Hall, secluded on the St. Paul campus, had far fewer incidents than other residence halls and apartment buildings of a similar size.

Officials say the variation in crime rates could come from freshmen choosing dorms based on their reputations.

Those reputations, in turn, could push housing staff to look more diligently for violations of Housing and Residential Life policies, said Libby Spotts, coordinator of student conduct for HRL.

“If that’s the perception people have going in, maybe [staff members] are more readily aware or prepared to document things or to find things,” she said.

Reputations match reality

University residence halls and their occupants have cultivated years of reputation, and many students can easily point out the stereotypes.

Middlebrook is full of nerds. The Superblock is the best place to find a party. Bailey Hall is boring.

Theater senior Cate Jackson, who spent two years in Middlebrook Hall, said she heard it described as “Middledork.”

Jackson said her experience in the hall was relatively quiet. The building’s muted, winding hallways last Friday revealed several movie nights, an “acro yoga” demonstration and a group of men juggling.

But Middlebrook, which houses many honors and arts students — about 900 students total — has also had the most theft over the past five academic years.

Materials science and engineering sophomore Ian Hamerlinck said he always heard that Territorial was the “worst” residence hall. The four Superblock dorms — Territorial, Frontier, Pioneer and Centennial — hold about 700 residents each.

On Friday night, eight men sat in a double room in Territorial, swearing and betting drinks on a card game. Territorial topped the list in underage consumption, with 75 offenses over the past five years. Pioneer was the second highest during that time, with 39 offenses.

In overall crime, the 126-student Roy Wilkins Hall tied with University Village for the lowest number of incidents last year. But with far fewer students than University Village, Wilkins had the highest crime rate — about one crime for every 16 students.

Full of gray, impassive hallways and designed for upperclassmen, Wilkins was almost silent last Saturday night.

Bailey, meanwhile, had one of the lowest crime rates last year. Over the past five years, it saw less than half as much crime as Sanford Hall, even though each building houses about 500 students.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said the St. Paul campus is “generally pretty quiet” for University police.

“I never heard of any crime in Bailey,” said computer engineering sophomore Jane Kagan, who lived there last year. “It’s in a suburb. It’s not even in a city, really.”

Staying secure

Student conduct coordinator Spotts said HRL continually has to deal with students feeling too safe to take precautions against crime.

She said the office has heard positive feedback about the “double access point” system, which requires students to swipe their U Card once to enter a building and again to get into residential areas.

Most University housing is full of flyers reminding students to take responsibility for their guests and not to let others follow them into buildings.

Spotts said campaigns from groups like the Minnesota Student Association, which asked students in residence halls to sign a safety pledge last semester, have helped raise awareness.

Bioproducts and biosystems engineering freshman Alex Papadakis said he always locks his door — even to head down the hall and use the bathroom — and doesn’t understand why others don’t do the same.

“I tell them that’s absolutely crazy,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep sound knowing my door was unlocked.”

Relatively safe

University police recorded about 1,100 offenses in University housing between fall 2008 and spring 2013. Minneapolis police recorded more crimes than that in University neighborhoods last year.

Part I crimes, which include the most serious offenses like rape, assault and theft, made up about 30 percent of the incidents in University housing from fall 2008 to spring 2013. Thefts accounted for almost all of that category, but there were also nine rapes and eight assaults over that period.

Overall, many students say living in a dorm feels safe.

Child psychology junior Erica Warffuel said she didn’t hear of any serious crime when she lived in Sanford her freshman year.

Warffuel, who now lives in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, said she doesn’t feel as safe as she did in University housing.

“There’s no one watching the front door anymore,” she said.

The University’s Security Monitor Program staffs each of the 12 residence halls and campus apartment buildings every night from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Officials sometimes beef up security and housing staff numbers to accommodate activity during events like Homecoming and Spring Jam.

Security monitors walk the halls of their assigned buildings several times a night, working with community advisers to deal with any problems.

The fact that security monitors are students helps them do their jobs, said program manager Justin Yarrington.

“It’s rare to have a student really be belligerent to a fellow student,” he said.

Spotts said alcohol and drug violations are the most common for housing staff members to encounter.

HRL policy bans all alcohol consumption and possession in the eight residence halls designed for freshmen and incoming transfer students. Drug possession is banned throughout all University housing.

Sanctions for violating those policies range from probation or community service to a loss of housing, and the sanctions often include education related to the incident.

Community advisers and security monitors typically don’t involve police unless students are uncooperative, seem like they might be in danger or minors are present, Spotts said.

Police citations, which can carry fines or community service, stack on top of HRL sanctions.

Some students say violating HRL policy is worth the risk.

Partying in the residence halls where they live lets students avoid cold weather, Papadakis said.

And though community advisers have to police residents, Papadakis said, he thinks they’re also focused on keeping residents safe.

Spotts said HRL wants to do more than discipline students.

“Our goal is to make sure that the education is in place,” she said. “So if there is a chance that they can make a different decision, they have the tools necessary to do that in the future.”

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