A Tuesday Fox 9 report had all the keywords to scare the pants off of you: A “pack” of teens “randomly preyed on people in the area about every 15 minutes for a ‘solid’ hour.” They “turned on a couple” on a bike path before their “crime spree… escalated to home invasions.” Scarier yet is that these “teenage robbers” are “still on the loose” — and in the charming neighborhood of Bryn Mawr no less.
Problem is, according to an email by Minnepolis Police Department crime prevention specialist Tim Hammett, Fox got its facts largely wrong.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Hammet said he was contacted by a neighborhood resident who was concerned about Fox’s newscast. He emailed that person back, explaining the facts surrounding the Sunday incidents. His email made the rounds and ended up in an e-newsletter put out by the Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association.
In it, he pointed out a series of inaccuracies, including the fact that some of the incidents happened outside the near-northside Minneapolis neighborhood. Additionally, the “crime spree” didn’t really involve “home invasions.” The term, wrote Hammett, is “used when suspects break or force their way into a home they know to be occupied with the intent to terrorize and rob the people there. It conjures up an extremely frightening, dangerous, and traumatizing event. That was not the case in either of the burglaries these juveniles committed. The homes were unoccupied. This is not to say that these burglaries were not very serious crimes in and of themselves, but rather to point out that Fox 9 overstated what actually happened.”
He adds that the suspects weren’t “on the loose.” Within an hour and a half of the first incident, one suspect was arrested and others were identified, effectively putting a stop to the incident. He told me that there was a “vigorous police response” to the teens’ behavior and that there’s an ongoing investigation. He says he’d like to address problems on the near north side with a long-term view. “Why do kids become delinquents,” he asked. “That’s an even longer-term, deeper question” than how to deal with Sunday’s crimes. He’s working to create a neighborhood that “nurtures values… that keep a kid from going down the wrong path.” Tactics range from simple community education about how to make your home less attractive to potential robbers to “making sure people understand some of the dynamics of personal safety.”
I asked Hammet how Fox 9’s reporting and all those terms seemingly used to strike fear in the citizenry contribute to that kind of nurturing community. He politely declined to answer.
Here’s the full text of his email:
The recent story on Fox 9 News contained several errors. First, not all of the incidents actually happened in Bryn Mawr, but that’s a minor point. Fox 9 also overstated the severity of the burglaries by referring to them as “home invasions”. The term “home invasion” is used when suspects break or force their way into a home they know to be occupied with the intent to terrorize and rob the people there. It conjures up an extremely frightening, dangerous, and traumatizing event. That was not the case in either of the burglaries these juveniles committed. The homes were unoccupied. This is not to say that these burglaries were not very serious crimes in and of themselves, but rather to point out that Fox 9 overstated what actually happened.
More importantly, Fox was also wrong in stating that the suspects were still “on the loose”. Within about an hour and a half of the first incident, one suspect was arrested and the others were identified by police. This enforcement action effectively put an end to the activity by these individuals, at least for now.
This is not to say that the potential for similar incidents to occur has been eliminated, or that these particular suspects won’t be back on the street. They will, and they’ll most likely continue to be a problem for the larger community. This points to the continuing need for sound and effective crime prevention strategies. We are all much better off when we prevent crime from happening in the first place rather than reacting to it after the fact. I am more than happy to work with any and all Bryn Mawr residents and businesses to find ways to improve your safety and reduce the odds that you will experience a crime. Active block clubs, sound home and business security habits and practices, and basic personal safety knowledge are all important parts of an effective neighborhood crime prevention strategy. As I said before, I’m more than happy to work with you and your neighbors on this. Please let me know if I can be of any help.
In response to this particular event, Sector Lieutenant Lindback has requested that the Park Police increase attention to this area as well as directing MPD sector squads to increase patrols in the area. Our Juvenile Unit is also investigating these crimes. If anyone has any additional information regarding the events of last Sunday, please call the Minneapolis Police Department.