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University seeks police backup to keep students, campus safe

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New efforts have been announced in an effort to keep students safe in the midst of a crime wave on and around the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.

The Star Tribune reports that officials at the university are "taking the unusual step" of asking the city to send more Minneapolis police to the campus area to aid and assist the 50 officers on the University of Minnesota Police Dept. In a public safety update to students Tuesday, Pam Wheelock, vice president of university services, said that she’s asked Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson to send additional police patrols to join Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies, who were assigned to provide "concentrated patrols" in the area two weeks ago.

The Minnesota Daily reports that as of Tuesday night, a student petition seeking additional patrols had gathered 3,460 signatures. The petition says the crime wave interferes with students’ ability to learn, noting some students have even considered transferring. The petition will go to University President Eric Kaler, University police, Minneapolis police and state legislators.

A legislative hearing on campus safety will be held next week.

A composite sketch of a suspect who posed as a police officer and may be responsible for two sexual assaults is expected soon. Minneapolis Police will hold a public safety walk with neighborhood residents on Friday at Van Cleve Park, the site of the October rape of a U student.

Kaler and Wheelock have met with mayor-elect Betsy Hodges to discuss the University’s need for additional city resources. Wheelock and University police Chief Greg Hestness have also met with Minneapolis police Chief Janée Harteau. A task force comprised of University faculty, staff and students formed nearly two weeks ago to evaluate campus safety and address areas that need improving, like buildings’ lighting.

The campus ride service Gopher Chauffeur recently expanded its fleet and days of service.

The crime rate is not significantly higher than it has been in the past few years, but the circumstances of the incidents have set the U community on edge. The campus area typically sees an uptick in crime every fall, but this year has also brought armed and violent robberies and sexual assaults.

Twenty-five of the 28 robberies reported since August occurred in neighborhoods surrounding the sprawling campus.

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