As the temperatures continue to plummet here in the Twin Cities, University of Minnesota police say criminals aren’t venturing outside to commit crimes as frequently. Instead, they are opting for indoors crimes.
“With the cool-down over the last couple of weeks, activity seems to be decreasing,” said University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner. “Even criminals don’t like the cold.”
Miner added that crimes like vandalism and assaults give way to thefts, trespassers and burglaries. He noted that the holidays and extended breaks are especially opportune times for thieves who know many homeowners and residents are gone for long periods. Miner said campus police have begun making more indoors patrols now that temperatures have dropped.
Another crime that seems to spike in the winter is underage drinking. Miner said campus police patrol residence halls in plain clothes throughout the winter in an effort to cut down on dangerous underage drinking practices.
“They do some surveillance and foot patrols in plain clothes,” Miner said. “Sometimes they are able to discover things that a uniformed police officer might not be able to discover.”
University Police have also been busy on the weekends in recent months. Typically police have extra officers staffed for home Gopher games, but since the Vikings are playing at TCF Bank Stadium as well, Sundays are also a time when many fans descend to the campus area. Many football fans like to usher in the game with some beer, and that can lead to trouble if police aren’t prepared.
Because cold football fans and homeless individuals may be looking for a spot to warm up, Brian Swanson, assistant vice president of University Services, said campus buildings will be locked after hours on the weekend, and residents are encouraged to carry their U cards in order to gain access to certain areas after normal hours.
“If you’re here after regular business hours and you’re trying to get in a building and go through the building as a way to stay warm,” Swanson said, “your U Card will get you into more buildings than in the old days when you needed to have a key.”
Avery Appelman, a criminal defense attorney in Minneapolis, said he also sees an uptick in drunk driving arrests in the cold winter months. He said the run of holidays – from Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Year’s – mean more people are celebrating the holidays with sprits, and they might not want to walk home if the temps are particularly cold.
“While residency halls may be dealing with a spike in students staying indoors to drink, those who would typically walk or bike to their neighborhood watering hole are now driving to avoid subzero temperatures,” said Appelman. “This can lead to problems if they are over-served and still decide to drive.”
“Make good decisions this winter,” Appelman concluded.