Sunday, December 15, 2013

You can't fix a problem if you don't know it exists

U of M crime alerts spark backlash

Campus crime alerts are supposed to make students safer, but black students call it racial profiling.

MINNEAPOLIS--Black students at the University of Minnesota say racial descriptions in crime alerts does not help catch suspects. Instead, it's hurting black male students.

There have been more than two dozen crimes on or near the U this year.

Crime alert after crime alert describes many of the suspects as young black males.

"There are a plethora of young black men on campus who fit that description," Abdel-Kader Toovi, a college senior and vice president of the Black Men's Forum on campus, said.

Ian Taylor, a junior and president of the Black Men's Forum, said many of their members have expressed concern over how other students treat them.

"You might walk a certain side of the street and someone might walk the other way or the other direction…just this feeling that people feel unsafe around you," Taylor said.

The racial descriptions are leading to racial profiling, according to Amber Jones, president of the U's Black Student Union.

"When a crime alert comes in everyone's like crime alert…there's another crime alert. Let him not be a black person again," Jones said.

Last week several black groups on campus wrote a letter to President Eric Kaler asking for change. Kaler responded that racial profiling will not be tolerated. He reiterated that on Friday during a board of regents meeting. Kaler said officers won't profile race but they will profile behavior.

"When people behave suspiciously they will investigate," Kaler said.

Racial descriptions remain on crime alerts but at the request of black students, staff and faculty all crime alerts now include a statement about racial profiling and link to the U's profiling policy.

Come spring the Black Student Union and the Black Men's Forum hope to hold town hall meetings and collaborate with stakeholders to make campus safe for everyone.

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