Sign language


“I’ve tried for years to get the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) to put up warning signs.” This was Minneapolis Fifth Precinct Crime Prevention Specialist Tom Thompson responding to a question about reducing car break-ins around Lake Calhoun. Currently the east side and southeast parking lots adjacent to Lake Calhoun, the jurisdiction of the MPRB, have a total of 1 warning sign about leaving valuables in your car. But how could this be if it is one of the most populated lakes in Minneapolis and consistently sees a high concentration of car break-ins?

At the May 7 ECCO Neighborhood meeting, President Nancy Ward suggested installing signs around the lake to warn visitors, (non-locals make up the majority of targets), not to leave valuables in their cars.

But philosophies about prevention appear to differ between the MPD and the MPRB. When questioned about the lack of signage around the lake to prevent break-ins, the MPRB police responded, “We oppose signage because people should be removing their valuables before they get to their destination.”

“Spotters” as they are called, work as a crime team. The concern from the MPRB police was that these “spotters” would watch people put their valuables in the trunks, which are just as easy to break into as windows. If people get to the park, as the scenario goes, read the warning sign and then put their valuables in the trunk then the thieves know for a fact that that car has valuables in it. This potentially makes it more likely to be robbed, their reasoning goes.

An additional part of that MPRB equation is that they are always riding a fine line between rule enforcement and aesthetics. An overabundance of signage begins to detract from the beauty of the parks.

But MPD’s Thompson maintains that signs prevent break-ins, even though he doesn’t necessarily advocate them everywhere. At other high break-in hotspots like Lake and Hennepin, for instance, a warning sign gets lost in the background noise of sign clutter.

When Dawn Sommers, Public Information and Marketing Manager for the MPRB was asked to respond to the issue, she said, “These inquiries from the public have re-generated discussions on the matter. We can certainly install the signs if that is what the public wants.”

Sometimes a test is the only way to know for sure.

Bruce Cochran is Art Director in charge of production for the Uptown Neighborhood News and lives in CARAG.

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