MSUM’s Public Safety Department sent an email at the beginning of the school year that warned students of a Level 3 sex offender moving in near campus.
Level 3 is the highest classification of sex offenders, meaning these offenders pose a greater risk to the public and are more likely to repeat their offenses.
Over the past three school years, Public Safety has sent five emails regarding sex offenders moving in near MSUM. The public gets notified when a Level 3 sex offender moves nearby and public safety then notifies the students and staff, according to Director of Public Safety, Ryan Nelson.
“We send these notifications out so students and staff can be aware and take the safety precautions,” Nelson said. “They need to protect themselves.”
Some of these safety precautions Nelson recommends are remembering to be aware of surroundings, knowing what the sexual offenders look like and not walking alone if it can be helped. Public Safety offers a safety escort service for students or staff for situations in which they are uncomfortable and have no one to walk with them.
According to city-data.com, Moorhead has more sex offenders per resident than the Minnesota average, but when compared to Fargo they have much less.
Niche.com, a website that gives statistics about colleges and cities, ranks MSUM no. 16 on its safest Minnesota college campuses, right below Concordia. When touring campus, Nelson believes that safety is a good selling point for students.
“I think that’s in the back of students’ minds when they are looking at campuses,” Nelson said. “Having a safe campus is a benefit as we attract new students.”
Safety is a high priority while on campus, but once off campus there is little Public Safety can do for students. This leaves the students who opt for off-campus living to take their own precautions.
Junior Allison Funk, who switched to off-campus living this fall, spoke highly of MSUM’s Public Safety. Safety wasn’t something she looked into while choosing a college, but it served as a plus once there.
“It was nice to hear about the safety practices on campus during orientation. It gave me peace of mind,” Funk said.
While safety wasn’t a priority during her college search, it did affect her while looking for an apartment. Before she found her current place, she looked into places that she thought of as “sketchy.” To help with her apartment search, she enlisted the help of her boyfriend’s father, a police officer, to look into the areas she was touring.
When applying to her current home, she had to pass many background checks. Knowing people had to go through this process to live there comforted her.
While Funk feels less safe off campus and was careful during her apartment search, she expresses how important it is to realize that danger is unavoidable.
“You have to understand that there’ll be sex offenders wherever you go,” she said.
For this reason, it is always important to be aware of your surroundings.