Listen Harteau takes to the streets to assure Mpls. residents amid rising level of gun violence
Jul 11, 2014
As police search for suspects in a north side shooting that wounded three women this week, Chief Janee Harteau took to the streets this week to allay residents' fears about rampant gun violence.
Overall shooting calls in the city have increased 23 percent so far this year over the same period last year and are up nearly 48 percent over the number reached by this time two years ago.
Harteau's visits came during a rough period on the city's streets. Hours after she walked the streets on the north side on Wednesday, three women were shot and wounded. She said the timing of the shooting was particularly disturbing.
"It would have been nice to have a couple day break for the community - not just for us -- but for the community," Harteau said. "The people that live there. To know that I was walking a block away from where that shooting occurred, yeah, it is disheartening."
On Thursday, Harteau took a bicycle ride through parts of south Minneapolis that have also seen increased violence. She told people in the Phillips neighborhood and other parts of the 3rd precinct that although the city's north side has received a lot of attention lately, she hasn't forgotten about them.
Shootings in some parts of south Minneapolis have increased so far this year over the same period last year. According to department statistics, there have been 25 shootings reported, compared to 17 at this point in 2013.
Still, that pales in comparison to the 4th Precinct, which covers nearly all of north Minneapolis. It has received 83 shooting calls.
In the other recent high profile shooting in north Minneapolis, the Hennepin County Attorney's office has charged 24-year-old Marco Gresham with second-degree murder in the death of Francesca Desandre and attempted murder in the shooting of another woman last weekend.
The rash of violence concerns Harteau, who started her career more than 20 years ago on the south side, walking a beat near the intersection of Chicago and Franklin Avenues. She returned to do some of the same things she used to do as a patrol officer -- to be visible, find out what people are concerned about and try to help.
Her visit to the south side was well received residents. Sopahl Nhep, who has owned the Best Steak and Gyros restaurant for 22 years, said crime in this part of town has gotten better over the last several years and he credits a lot of that to having beat cops patrolling the area.
"The beat cop[s], they come in every single day," said Nhep, who who came to the United States from Cambodia four decades ago. "And they know who you are, exactly who hangs out here."
Harteau said summertime violent crime spikes are not unusual in Minneapolis, but some of the recent shootings are different in they are not committed by gang members and other known criminals typically responsible for gun violence.
"Now you're seeing just everyday people, frankly, who are resolving personal conflict with guns because they're easily accessible; there doesn't seem to be as stiff a penalty when you're caught with one that could be," the chief said. "So there's more fear of not carrying a gun for your own protection than there is of being caught with one, which is frustrating."
Harteau is not the only public official frustrated with court sentences they feel aren't strong enough to deter people from illegally carrying guns.
Earlier this week, Minneapolis City Council president Barb Johnson criticized judges for issuing probation instead of prison sentences in too many cases.
In one case, 24-year-old Joseph Lee Smith was charged with murdering a man with a gun in north Minneapolis last week - when he was on probation for a conviction of gross misdemeanor gun possession.
Hennepin County District Court Judge Jay Quam said sometimes the harshest sentences aren't possible. Quam said he and other judges have to consider a lot of different factors when it comes to sentencing someone convicted of a gun-related crime.
"You just have to look at all the circumstances and see what their background is - what their efforts have been to rehabilitate themselves, the significance of the event or the seriousness of the events -- a BB gun versus an assault rifle, all sorts of things like that."
Back at the intersection of Chicago and Franklin Avenues, James Brown said the solution to gun violence isn't more police or tougher sentences.
Brown, 56, said too many people are struggling with poverty, chemical addiction and depression -- all factors he says lead to crime and violence.
He'd like to see social service agencies set up Peavey Park to reach out to people who need help. He'd also like to see more community gatherings held at the park.
"It keeps a lot of the riff-raff out of the park, when they have gatherings and bands when the churches come in," Brown said. "That's a good thing. It's a beautiful park. It needs to be used more."