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Recent tragedies bring a rise in safety concerns

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University of Minnesota student Jennifer Houle’s body was recovered from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis on Wednesday, ending the grueling search for the 22-year-old woman that began earlier this week.

Details released surrounding the incident say that Houle had gone missing early Friday morning after going out with friends at a bar in Dinkytown. Footage viewed by authorities saw Houle entering the river from the 10th Avenue bridge. According to authorities, it was unclear whether she had tripped or jumped from the bridge.

Following the river, St. Cloud State University is just an hour north.

Safety is a concern for some students and community members, and this tragedy has brought safety concerns closer to home.

St. Cloud Police Chief Blaire Anderson said that in his years working for St. Cloud, there hasn’t been a drowning.

One of the biggest preventative security measures that people can take is to make sure that they are not alone, Anderson said.

“I can’t stress that enough, travel in groups or at least in pairs. If we all watch out for one another, then we will make home safely,” Anderson said. “There’s an old saying, ‘there’s safety in numbers,’ and I think that is certainly applicable here.”

Unfortunately, many accidents result from people traveling alone, Anderson said. In the case with Houle, she was last seen leaving Blarney Bar between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. The video footage showed Houle entering the river, but no one was with her at that time.

Another case of a student walking alone was the homicide mystery of Tom Bearson, a North Dakota State University student who was last seen in late September leaving an off-campus party in the early morning hours. Three days after he had gone missing, his body was found in the lot of Larry’s RV Sales in Moorhead.

As spring is underway, the warmer weather brings more outdoor activities and more people getting outside.

SCSU’s Public Safety has an emergency “blue light” system that officers continuously monitor that includes 54 external “blue light” phones and 58 elevator emergency telephones. Public safety also provides a safety escort program for students, employees, and guests who are traveling alone on campus. On top of that, the campus has approximately 100 video cameras that are located outside and in high traffic areas such as the entrances to residence halls, the Atwood Memorial Center, the Miller Canter and Halenbeck Hall to ensure the safety of students and faculty.

“We want everybody to go out have a great time, have fun, and do whatever you like, spend time with people you care about,” Anderson said. “But, make sure that your loved ones get home safely, and the best way to do that is to not leave them alone.”

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