New Northeast SAFE worker has lots of experience working with kids

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Rick Maas, who recently brought his crime-prevention career to Northeast, said that 12 years ago when he started with the Community Crime Prevention (CCP)/SAFE program, he got the last “original” position before the program expanded. “That was in their glory days,” he said.

Before that, in the late 1980s, he’d been a public school truancy officer at Folwell Middle School in South Minneapolis, where he met the school’s liaison cop, Valerie Wurster.

Now he and Wurster are together again; she’s been the Second Precinct Commander for two years, and he was transferred to the precinct from the North Side on Feb. 6.

“I feel we are so fortunate to have him,” Wurster said. “Rick is coming to us from the Cleveland neighborhood in North Minneapolis. He’s super outgoing and extremely well versed in managing difficult kids. He’s a great guy.”

Maas will be in charge of the CCP/SAFE operations in the 10 Northeast neighborhoods north of Broadway Street: Windom Park, Waite Park, Holland, Sheridan, Columbia Park, Marshall Terrace, Bottineau, Audubon, Northeast, and Logan Park. Carol Oosterhuis of SAFE, who formerly worked with those neighborhoods, has been assigned to the Northeast neighborhoods south of Broadway and some Southeast neighborhoods including the University of Minnesota.

Maas said he has a lot of experience working with young people. After he was a truancy officer, he started working for the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct in their juvenile diversion program.

“We worked with first-time offenders; some of them were under 10. They’d been caught for things like shoplifting, and were going to the court system for the first time in their lives. We got them through that and later monitored their school work, checked out how they were doing.”

When he started with SAFE, he said, he was assigned to the Jordan neighborhood in North Minneapolis. Part of the job was working with kids at the Jerry Gamble Boys and Girls Club. Most recently, he was on a detail assignment at the Plymouth Christian Youth Center’s alternative middle school. “I worked with behavior stuff; I was the liaison between the community and the kids. We had police-community relations kinds of classes, to get kids exposed to how police work, what they do.

“We brought in speakers. We talked about traffic stops, the police youth citizen academies. They met officers from the bomb squad, the canine patrol. We showed them the video shooting range. We also hooked them up with mentors and employment opportunities; sometimes the police department was able to hire kids in the summer.

In Northeast, Maas expects to start training block leaders. SAFE has changed since he started, he added; civilian employees like him are no longer assigned to work with police officers. “There are no sergeants assigned to SAFE; a lot of the job now hinges on working with the sector lieutenants.” One of the Second’s lieutenants, Ray Witzman, he added, used to be a SAFE officer.

He plans to attend all of the neighborhood association meetings and will be at Third Ward City Council Member Diane Hofstede’s visioning and priority-setting event on March 4.

When asked his opinion on neighborhood patrols (Northeast has a newly formed neighborhood patrol and also some walking clubs), Maas said, “Police can’t authorize any kind of patrols because of liability issues. But if people are going out during prime time, 6 to 9 p.m., I’m all for that. You get to meet the kids and adults, and let people know it’s safe to be out. You’re saying, ‘We’re not afraid to be out here.’ There’s safety in groups, and you’re not playing the Lone Ranger.

“I think it’s a reasonable time for a patrol; you can be helpful, and you won’t be dodging bullets or blowing somebody’s cover. The late night stuff, though, sneaking around, I personally don’t think it’s a wise idea. We wouldn’t endorse that. All you see is bad news.”

He said he thinks the block leader approach is good.

“It’s a good way to bring blocks together. If there are crime alerts, we rely on those people to get them out. If it’s something like garage robberies, within a couple of hours they get the word out to everybody on the block; they look out for each other and get immediate feedback. They’re also the point person on National Night Out. Minneapolis is always the top city for National Night Out. People take pride in that.”

Because Wurster knows Maas has experience working with youth, he said she has encouraged him to get involved with kids in the Second Precinct in a “proactive way,” starting with cracking down on curfew and truancy violations. “We also want to get businesses organized in the Central Avenue corridor, to get them to come together.” He said he has met with North East Community Development Corporation (NE CDC) executive director John Vaughn, who has arranged a meeting for Maas to meet Northeast business owners.

He added that he’s been learning to speak Spanish, which will likely help him when he’s working in the neighborhoods.

The Second Precinct’s phone number is 612-673-5702.

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