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U of M tightens security
By Patty Marsicano
Minnesota Public Radio
October 12, 2001
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The University of Minnesota is stepping up its security precautions to deal with the threat of terrorist attacks. The increased concern has touched animal research, sporting events, and energy facilities on university campuses.

Mariucci Arena, the home of the U of M Gopher men's hockey team, will see increased security when the hockey season opens next week. U officials say fans, employees and vendors will all be the subjects of more scrutiny.
(Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota)
Sports fans can expect something different when they arrive at Mariucci Arena for the opening men's hockey game next week. U of M police officer Kari Stephney says her department has a whole new plan for maintaining security at the 10,000-seat arena.

"We're going to be checking more IDs. We're going to be doing more criminal background checks because we have a lot of vendors and so forth. We're going to be keeping cars further away from buildings, keeping entrances more secure. We're going to be limiting packages such as purses and big backpacks. People are going to be subject to have those items searched," says Stephney.

University of Minnesota Police Chief George Aylward says police will also sweep athletic arenas before the games - checking for suspicious bags and even bombs. He says the department is looking into the possibility of buying a bomb-sniffing dog.

"We expect to get an increased number of bomb scares, concerns by people that 'is that package something I should be concerned about.' So we're evaluating what's the best way of responding to that," says Aylward. "It's possible a dog would be useful. We could simply reassure people that 'it's fine - you can pick that up and leave with it."

Aylward says, however, the department must consider the cost of maintaining such an animal - estimated at about $3,500 per year - and how much the department would actually use the dog.

University of Minnesota police officer Jason Tossey says security upgrades were already in the works before September 11th - including additional protections for administrative offices such as intrusion alarms and cameras. That's because university officials felt administrators could at times become targets. He says it's likely installing and testing the enhanced protections will now be accelerated.

These are some of the University of Minnesota police officers who will assist in implementing increased security measures on the Twin Cities campus. Left to right: Matt Quast, Troy Buhta, Erik Stenemann, Kari Stephney.
(MPR Photo/Patty Marsicano)
"The university being a high-profile area - and the administration being high profile - there were certain concerns we had prior to September 11th, and maybe now this just moves that faster," says Tossey.

Vice President of University Services Eric Kruse, who's responsible for the university's buildings, says officials are also stepping up security measures at the school's energy facilities.

"We have looked at our steam plant, our utility distribution systems and stuff like that. We're going through some re-keying and upgrading of the locking systems that we have," Kruse says.

Kruse also says university officials will be reviewing what kind of upgraded security equipment they should install in new buildings.

The university also plans to tighten security for researchers who use animals in their work. Moira Keane directs the review committees which regulate animal research on campus. She says the September 11th attacks have made the school even more vigilant about protecting animal research from its traditional adversaries - animal rights activists - and she says changes are coming.

"Increased identification of individuals working in specific areas. Perhaps some additional training measures that would help instruct personnel to challenge strangers who might be in their hallways and areas, to ask them what they are doing there," says Keane. "Additional doorway security is being considered in a lot of our spaces now."

Keane says the university is increasing security to guard against the risk that a potential terrorist could introduce chemical or biological agents into its veterinary animal populations. There are about 3,500 veterinary animals at the university, and a total 37,000 research animals. Keane says another concern is the U's need to protect research into vaccines or antidotes to biohazards or other infectious agents that could be used by terrorists.

Vice President Eric Kruse says university security was already a heightened concern on campus before September 11th - but now, he says, "it's a good time to assess what our risks are."