Public safety has been an issue with staying power. The issue was first raised during the summer semester here at MCTC when a student was mugged by an assailant who was possibly carrying a weapon. This sent ripples through the student body that lasted until the Congressional visit from Senator Terrie Bonoff and the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee in September 2013 where we raised the issue of campus security to her and to some other members of the Minnesota State Senate.
I say this issue has staying power because recently a string of thefts, robberies, and rapes in Dinkytown were highlighted by a terrible incident. A girl was abducted and raped by a man claiming to be a police officer. After news of the incident spread a great outcry came from the student body at the University of Minnesota. Petitions were signed, and every student had something to say about it. The increased scrutiny from the student body sparked some serious discussions about public safety on campuses.
The Minnesota State Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee convened a hearing to facilitate that very discussion. The Chief of Police from each department came to testify, as well as administrators and students from both the U of M and MCTC.
When we are looking at the hard statistics for campus safety, we realize that the vast majority of the criminal activity that occurs on campus is petty theft. So many cell phones and laptops that are left unattended go missing or grow legs. This is not just limited to our campus though. The nationwide uptick in “apple Picking” has been on the collective radar of all of the law enforcement agencies in the metro area, and has been discussed widely on the national level. “Apple picking” can manifest itself in many ways, from the simple disappearance of your beloved tablet or computer, to someone taking your Apple product from your hands. We tend to walk around with expensive gadgets out in the open, and hold them out in front of us in ways that we wouldn’t our wallet or our jewelry.
Although we are unlikely to see many of the more aggressive thefts on campus, we are a high risk population. MCTC is a large and modestly open environment with many crowds that are rich with electronic gadgets. Every campus is the same; The U of M is only a larger target.
Another phenomenon was discussed at the hearings which I find particularly disturbing. What law enforcement experts refer to as the balloon effect is the shifting of criminal activity out of well protected areas into less protected areas. When the risk outweighs the reward people tend to find “greener pastures”, like if you squeeze one part of a balloon another part expands. My fear is that if they spend all of their attention on the U, that we may find an uptick in incidence at MCTC.
When the Chair of the Higher Ed and Workforce Development committee called the hearings, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what they could accomplish. They do have an interest in Higher Ed, and the level of safety on campus directly impacts our ability to learn. When we cannot feel safe on campus, we cannot grow and better ourselves. But the fuzziness of the sphere that this issue occupies is somewhat concerning to me.
The next issue that comes to mind is that the hearings are off session hearings. They are held independent of any real period of legislation. The massive outcry at the U compelled the Legislators to sit down and talk about problem, but what will they do when they stand back up again? We must keep ringing this bell until some change occurs. We must keep talking about this until some real change is made on the state level. We cannot be ignored. If we are, then we will face the consequences.