Mayor Rybak's proposed budget calls for $200 million in spending on public safety, that's $6 million more than what was budgeted this year. The increase will cover hiring 18 more police officers and four more 911 operators, as well as funding several initiatives designed to crack down on youth crime.
Public safety as the city's first priority has been a mantra for Rybak for the last several years. And he says it's been paying off.
"For the first time in years, violent crime is falling. It is down 14 percent citywide and it's trending downward in every single precinct. Homicides are down 24 percent. Robberies down 18 percent. Aggravated assault, down 10 percent. While the bulk of our crime and crime fighting continues in north Minneapolis, violent crime is down 17 percent in north Minneapolis."
Rybak acknowledged the city still faces serious challenges with crime. He cited the killing of bicyclist Mark Loesch and the shooting of 12-year-old Vernice Hall as two examples.
A reward has been set for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the death of Loesch. Loesch, a husband and father of four was apparently beaten to death in south Minneapolis during an evening bike ride.
Hall was shot in the head near her house in north Minneapolis this weekend. She is still hospitalized in critical condition and reportedly hasn't regained consciousness since the shooting.
Police Chief Tim Dolan says crimes of this type are a financial strain on the department. These often involve a lot of overtime for investigating officers. Rybak set aside $800,000 in next year's budget to cover police overtime. Dolan says that may not be enough.
"Every incident like that, every major incident like that comes with a pretty large expense to the police department as far as overtime goes. Every incident like that has a major expense to the community as a whole. We'll end up making arrests. I'm confident of that. But then the prosecution and incarceration of those people -- that gets into the millions of dollars."
Dolan says the city cannot arrest its way out of its crime problem. He says it will take cooperation from community members and other city agencies to address the roots of criminal activity. That's a sentiment shared by V.J. Smith of the anti-violence group called MAD DADS.
Smith was one of the first people on the scene of the shooting of Vernice Hall. And he says he wouldn't be surprised if the person who shot her isn't much older than she is.
Smith says the city needs to invest in services that try to keep young people away from crime and that keep ex-offenders from going back to jail. He says he's seeing a trend where unemployed, adult, ex-cons use teenagers to do their dirty work.
"Those kids now are the ones that are doing the crimes because the older cats are sitting back in the crib just waiting for their money. And the kids need money because the parents are either strung out or just dysfunctional."
Rybak announced the city will partner with the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches to mentor ex-offenders who are re-entering society.
Rybak's 2008 budget also pledges $22 million for the library system, including money that will be used to re-open three branches that were closed last year. The mayor also is seeking a two-fold increase in the amount of money the city spends to repair its bridges.
Once again, the budget relies on an 8 percent property tax increase to help pay for all that.