Serious crimes in the area — like aggravated assault, burglary and homicide — dropped nearly 40 percent since last year, according to Minneapolis police.
The much-stigmatized neighborhood, located next to the University of Minnesota West Bank campus, has gotten a bad rap, University freshman Maggie Marion said.
But the reputation is undeserved, she said, echoing other residents and community members who said fighting the outside view of the neighborhood was “an uphill battle.”
“People seem to exaggerate what happens here,” said Russom Solomon, who owns the Red Sea Bar and Restaurant in the neighborhood. “When you start looking at the numbers, it’s a different picture … We continuously fight that misconception of crime.”
In September, police reported 29 crimes in Cedar-Riverside, 17 of which involved larceny. Marcy-Holmes, another University-area neighborhood had 78 crimes reported, including one homicide, according to Minneapolis police.
Peaking between 2002 and 2006, University-area crime has steadily decreased over the past five years, said University police Chief Greg Hestness.
Some residents attribute the decline to a recent upturn of police activity in Cedar-Riverside. Minneapolis police assigned two beat officers to the neighborhood nearly two years ago, in part to build trust between residents and police.
Solomon, who also chairs of the West Bank Safety Committee, said the presence of beat cops has “changed the whole equation” for neighborhood security.
The area has felt its share of violent incidents over the past three years, including three homicides in 2008 and a drive-by shooting outside the Brian Coyle Center in January in which two men were injured. But Hestness said those incidents were isolated.
Police continue to routinely patrol the neighborhood, Hestness said, but generally the crime is on a steady decline.
Abdirahman Kahin, who owns Afro Deli and Coffee, said he used to have misconceptions of the neighborhood before he opened his shop last year.
“Now I’m discovering that it was just [fear] and not reality,” he said.
Kahin collaborates directly with the African Development Center — a nonprofit service that works within African communities to start and sustain small businesses — to run his restaurant.
Hussein Samatar, executive director of the ADC, said community members, police and the city have worked together to create a neighborhood “that reflects a welcoming area instead of one where people are afraid.
Because Cedar-Riverside is part of the city’s first precinct, including the Downtown West and North Loop neighborhoods, some community members said the city’s police department has encountered challenges in addressing area needs.
When a precinct encompasses such a large area, sometimes issues become a little difficult to tackle, said Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents the neighborhood.
“But that’s not to say police haven’t done a lot over the years to make a difference and help,” Gordon said.
Community members also said many of the crimes are committed by nonresidents coming into the neighborhood.
“This is our neighborhood, and we want to protect it as much as we can,” Kahin said.