Minneapolis police say the early spring is helping to fuel an uptick in reported incidents of violent crime throughout the city.
Some parts of the city have seen a noticeable jump in robberies and assaults, and that has police preparing for what could be a long, hot summer.
Incidents of some violent crimes tend to rise with the temperature, according to police officials. That's because the weather inspires law-abiding and non-law abiding people to gather in public places, especially in downtown Minneapolis, said Police Inspector Kris Arneson, who is in charge of the police force that patrols downtown.
"We are actually experiencing summertime, right now in March. And that's been a huge issue for us," Arneson said.
She's had to deploy mounted patrols five weeks earlier than usual. Police officers on horseback are commonly seen near downtown bars and restaurants on warm summer nights. Arneson is also focusing patrols around Nicollet Mall. That's where a 'flash mob' of young people assaulted several men last weekend.
Arneson said there have been several similar incidents in downtown Minneapolis over the last few months, but she says flash mob assaults also happen in other places where large groups of young people hang out, such as shopping malls. Officers have responded by focusing attention on juveniles who hang out downtown when they should be in school or those who are out after curfew, Arneson said.
"I think we do a really good job of seeing where issues are bubbling to the surface and getting on that right away, but we're starting early this year," Arneson said. "I'm anticipating a very hot summer."
While this summer may be hot, people shouldn't be afraid of coming downtown, Arneson said. She says there won't be more officers on patrol, but the department may have to spend more on officer overtime.
NORTH SIDE CRIME JUMP
The most significant crime uptick has occurred in north Minneapolis. According to the most recent police numbers, there were 17 reported robberies between March 20 and March 26. During the same week last year there were six robberies reported.
Violent crime in the Fourth Precinct, which covers north Minneapolis, is up 35 percent over last year. Citywide violent crime has increased by 31 percent. Several robberies were reported near or along West Broadway Avenue.
Alfred Woods is towel-drying his black Cadillac STS outside a car wash along West Broadway. Woods says has seen more police cars in the neighborhood this spring.
"But I like the more patrol. It's more active with the police on hand," Woods said. "Sometimes you get harassed for some things you don't do, but that's part of life because you stay over north and we have crime rates that are bad."
Woods says crime tends to ebb and flow in the area. But he said over the last several years, he has seen a disturbing trend — younger kids are shooting each other and getting shot at.
"What do you do? Do you go back out to the suburbs? No. You just fight for your community. You got to fight," Woods said. "Keep the MAD DADS alive. Keep the organizations we had back in the day alive and fight for your community."
Three months into the year, it is early to tell if this uptick in violence will become a longer trend.
Police officials hope that with timely planning and quick response, they can keep violent crime on the downward trend it has been on over the last several years.
View March 20 - 26 crime highlights in a larger map