Police department’s Safe City plan outlines crime issues, strategies

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If you’re one of the Bridgeland residents who’s been concerned about crime in the city, you’ll want to take a look at the Minneapolis Police Department’s plan for its Safe City initiative. The plan, which is designed to reduce the number of homicides, shootings and robberies across the city, is available online at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/news/20060503safecity.asp

The document begins with a summary of crime and crime-fighting efforts in Minneapolis during the last few years. As everyone knows, crime is up across the city, including Bridgeland. So far this year, in the Second Precinct aggravated assaults are up by 40 percent and robberies are up by 35 percent. In the Third Precinct, aggravated assaults are up 27 percent and robberies are up by 15 percent. The report says that “nearly half of the robbery suspects are juveniles, and many of them are repeat offenders.”

The plan goes on to present specific strategies to try to reduce violent crimes and gang activity across the city, and in specific problem areas within each precinct. What I thought was particularly interesting is that in the Second Precinct section, only three areas are covered: the area around the intersection of Lowry and Central avenues NE, the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood, and what’s labeled “Southeast Minneapolis – University of Minnesota.”

(Now here’s an aside: how did Marcy-Holmes end up outside of “Southeast Minneapolis”? Apparently the police suffer from the same geographic confusion that afflicts so many when it comes to understanding the area that is properly called “Southeast.” This report even redefines the Marcy-Holmes boundaries, saying they are the river, Central Avenue, East Hennepin, and 35W. Of course, Marcy-Holmes extends east of 35W to include Dinkytown.)

What I find interesting is that only these few areas are discussed in the plan, out of the whole Second Precinct, which includes all of Northeast Minneapolis. Police officials must either believe Marcy-Holmes and the University area have the biggest crime problems in the precinct, or else our neighborhood activists have been the squeakiest wheels. I think it’s probably some of both.

In the discussion about Marcy-Holmes, the major problems the report identifies are “robberies associated with groups of juveniles and young adults loitering in the area,” residential burglaries, “large parties that result in assaults and disorderly conduct,” and auto thefts, primarily of Hondas, Acuras and Toyotas.

The current and ongoing police strategies for dealing with these problems include bait vehicles, party details and Operation Nightcap, a joint effort by the Minneapolis Police Department, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office, and the University of Minnesota Police Department to target and “lock down” large parties at the beginning of each semester, confiscating kegs, checking IDs and issuing citations.

Additional “Safe City” strategies to be implemented include a coordinated effort between the Second Precinct and the Metro Gang Strike Force to determine what gangs are active in the area, developing plans to prevent gang violence, curfew details to prevent juveniles from becoming crime victims, and a collaborative “robbery suppression detail.”

In the section of the report describing crime around the university, the problems listed are much the same as those listed for Marcy-Holmes. The strategies for dealing with these problems are also the same, with a few additional suggestions about community involvement: the report says that programs need to be available to keep youth occupied at parks and the Southeast Library; university students and staff need to be educated in personal safety; and kids at the St. Mary’s (meaning Glendale) public housing complex need to be offered programming.

The only other area in Bridgeland that is covered in the Safe City plan is Cedar-Riverside. Problems cited there include open-air drug dealing; groups of young people loitering and intimidating store patrons; groups of young people committing robberies; and Somali gang members loitering in the area and committing such crimes as auto theft, shootings, robberies and assaults.

Ongoing police strategies for dealing with these problems include squad cars patrolling the area, community outreach to Somali leaders to address issues in their community, and efforts by the police gang task force to document active Somali gangs and reduce the violence associated with them.

New Safe City strategies described in the plan include targeting drug dealers with buy/bust operations, police saturation details, enforcing trespassing violations against chronic offenders, and gang suppression efforts. As part of the plan, the police are asking for funding for youth programming at the Brian Coyle Community center (especially for Somali youth), employment programs for new immigrants, and education and support for Somali parents.

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