North Minneapolis residents are sending the message that property crimes are a serious problem. On Tuesday, October 11 they launched a Property Crimes Court Watch that will bring increased attention to these offenses.
Court Watches are a collaborative where community members work with law enforcement to bring the community’s voice into the courtroom. This Court Watch focuses on burglaries of homes, garages and businesses with the goal of ensuring the offenders receive appropriate sentences from the courts. Using publically available information and input from community, police officers, prosecutors and probation, Court Watch pays attention to habitual burglars and people who sell stolen property, tracking their progress through the criminal system. Participants are prepared to submit impact statements that help inform and educate the court about the true costs of property crimes.
At the first meeting, Northside residents met with representatives from the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin County Attorney, the Minneapolis City Attorney and neighborhood probation to learn more about how the criminal justice system handles property crimes and how civilians can make an impact.
Reporting Suspicious Activity — One of the key things residents and businesses can do to help prevent crime is to report suspicious activity. The police can only respond to incidents when they know about them and the sooner a report comes in the better chance they have of catching the offender. This is particularly true for burglaries, since it’s rare to catch a thief in the act. Apprehending an offender with stolen property may be the best chance for a positive outcome after a property crime.
Whenever you see suspicious activity, call 911. As Lieutenant Kim Lund stated, “If you see someone carrying a 47″ flat screen down the alley, call 911. If you see a stranger loitering in your neighborhood, call 911. It’s better to place the call and have the squads come and sort it out.”
If you want to report a crime after the fact but do not need a police presence, you can call 311. This will still alert the MPD’s Property Crimes unit, headed up by Lt. Lund in the 4th Precinct. Whether you call 311 or 911 you will receive a case tracking number and follow up from the MPD about the incident.
Community Impact Statements —When someone’s house is broken into, it undermines the security of an entire neighborhood. Anyone who has been impacted by a crime, even indirectly, has a right to tell the court how it has affected their life. Community impact statements tell that story, and judges review these statements.
By participating in a Court Watch, community members have opportunities to write impact statements. When offenders who are monitored by a Court Watch are charged with an offense, the police send out an electronic request for impact statements. Any submitted statements are then sent by a Crime Prevention Specialist to the prosecution, who submit them to the judge and the defense.
Tim Hammett, a Crime Prevention Specialist with the 4th Precinct, discussed the value of a community impact statement, “They illustrate the affect of the crime. Painting a picture of the true impact of a burglary can influence the judge and help us achieve appropriate outcomes during sentencing.” Assistant County Attorney Gail Baez shared that prosecutors appreciate having these available in court, and may read them aloud in court to demonstrate the serious nature of these crimes. “Sometimes the community’s words have more sway than anything a prosecutor could say.”
Visit www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/police/crimealert/ signup.asp to sign up to receive crime alerts and requests for community impact statements. You can also contact Tim Hammett at 612-673-2866 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Next Steps — The next Property Crimes Court Watch is Tuesday, November 8 at 6:30 p.m. at North Regional Library, 1315 Lowry Ave. N. At this meeting, attendees will be updated on current Court Watch offenders, including any new arrests, court dates or sentences.
Each meeting also includes education about the criminal justice process. At the November meeting prosecutors from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will explain the legal process, focusing on property crimes and how Court Watch can help achieve appropriate outcomes. Future meetings may include information on Drug Court, the Mental Health Court, the Juvenile Justice Process and other requested topics.