The University of Minnesota, campus-area neighborhoods and local police departments are initiating new programs and bolstering others to reduce the number of off-campus properties in the area with numerous complaints against them.
Several properties in the nearest off-campus neighborhoods have had multiple citations for violating city ordinances and for alcohol-related offenses. Southeast Como, Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park have all experienced their share of residences that often have parties that get out of control. These parties generate a volley of complaints from other residents in the neighborhood.
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart said that a small minority of students participate in this kind of behavior while the majority of students simply want to focus on school.
Rinehart said that some of the unwanted behavior starts in the residence halls on campus. He said some students who receive citations in the residence halls continue a pattern of poor decisions.
“I think what students don’t realize sometimes is that their problems in residence halls do stay with them,” Rinehart said. “We’re trying to see if there are students who have patterns of behavior that are really, probably, damaging to their own success and disturbing to the community. And when that is the case, we want to intervene to see if we can help.”
Students who receive citations at some of these parties may end up being interviewed by Rinehart and his staff. Rinehart said they tend to interview students with previous offenses and try to get their perspectives on what occurred.
“Depending on how the conversation goes, there may or may not be a sanction applied,” Rinehart said. He said such sanctions can range from simply a warning to, in the very worst cases, suspension or expulsion.
Rinehart said the University is trying to encourage positive behavior. “We’re trying to create neighborhoods that are livable,” he said.
The University wants to have neighborhoods around campus that faculty, staff and students are comfortable living in, Rinehart said. Parts of the student conduct code apply to students living off-campus.
James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said landlords play a large role in creating a sense of stability in the neighborhoods. Most of the properties within Southeast Como are rental properties and that number is probably going to increase, De Sota said.
Most landlords are very attentive to their properties and tenants, De Sota said, but there are those who only seek to maximize their profits. He said that the University Neighborhood Improvement Association, an association consisting mostly of landlords, is working to create a more unified type of leasing agreement.
Making the neighborhood safe is easier when you have stability, De Sota said. Minor crimes, such as alcohol-related offenses, are creating an image that can be harmful to students.
“You’re starting to see some of that harder crime creep into the neighborhood,” De Sota said. “Nobody wants to see resources being used at the city level or at the university level on behavior issues. Everybody would rather have all those resources being concentrated on theft from auto, actual vehicle theft, burglary, breaking and entering, assaults, investigations; that’s what we want to see. But it can be very difficult to get to some of those issues until you address some of the underlying problems.”
Nicholas Juarez, crime prevention specialist for the second precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department, said there are some tools in place that the department uses to influence the residents of problem properties.
One such tool the department uses to mitigate the problem is a warning letter. Juarez said in the Southeast Como neighborhood, the number of residents who stopped their behavior after receiving a letter was around 90 percent, and in Marcy Holmes the number was closer to 93 percent.
For the remaining minority of properties who don’t stop the unwanted behavior, administrative fines are issued ranging from $200 to $800, depending on how many incidents have occurred. If a property still doesn’t cooperate, further measures are taken that can involve city government departments, such as home inspection.
Juarez said these measures are very effective at mitigating the problem, but there are many ways to prevent unwanted behavior from happening.
“There has to be some education and communication about responsibility and about taking ownership for living in the community,” Juarez said.
One program created by the University aims to do just that. The University hired 22 student liaisons to work within the community on a peer-to-peer basis, according to Rinehart. The liaisons also do quite a bit of educating around the neighborhoods.
“Neighborhoods mean watching out for one another and taking care of one another,” Rinehart said. “I think the student liaisons are a good step in that direction.”
Juarez said the liaisons do provide a different way of communicating with students in the neighborhoods. He said students sometimes see an issue differently when they hear about it from their peers than when they hear about it from the authorities, and the liaisons provide another avenue for communication.
According to Juarez, the main issue is communication.
“Get to know your neighbor,” he said. “Be aware of what’s going on in your block.”