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Homicide problem awaits Minneapolis' new police chief

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Thanking supporters
A Minneapolis native who grew up in a part of town now known for its crime problems, Tim Dolan thanked his supporters and told them how he plans to use his office to fight crime.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Tim Dolan took the oath before a crowd of friends, family and law enforcement officers in dress uniform.  A Minneapolis native who grew up in a part of town now known for it's crime problems, Dolan thanked his supporters and told them how he plans to use his office to fight crime.

"I truly believe that a crime prevented is better than any crime that's solved.  Helping those who are teetering on the brink of becoming a criminal is one of our jobs...to help them choose a better path or a better alternative," he said.

Dolan has already served as for most of last year as the interim head of the department.  He replaced William McManus who resigned to take a job in Texas early in 2006.  Dolan has been hailed by his supporters as being the right guy at the right time.

They intend to stay
Doris Cunningham, left, says while she's not going to let crime her out of town after spending 40 years in Minneapolis, she understands why some people leave. Rose Smith is also a longtime and loyal resident of the northside. Smith says her friend was robbed and then shot by some young men.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

At this time, the city has already seen three homicides.  

John Laux, a former Minneapolis police chief and current chief of the Bloomington police force, says Dolan's calm temperament will help him get through times like these. 

"You have to be that calming influence because people can get very emotional and say "three homicides" and some mathematician will say, at this rate we'll have 300. Just settle down.  We'll deal with these as they occur.  We'll see if there are patterns that we will address.  There's issues that we'll need to confront," Laux said.

In 2006 the police focused their efforts on combatting youth crime by restarting it's juvenile unit and by partnering with private foundations that helped fund more park hours.  Dolan has credited these and other efforts with a decline in the crime rate over last summer.  Still, overall there were more violent crimes committed in the city than in recent past years.

The city's northside neighborhoods saw more than it's fair share of violent crime in 2006.  And much of the police department's efforts to combat crime have been focused there.

"I had a dear friend, he had gotten killed up on Fremont and Broadway in November of 05," says Rose Smith, who works for the Minneapolis Park Board and spends much of her time in parks throughout north Minneapolis.  

She is also a longtime and loyal resident of the northside.  Smith says her friend was robbed and then shot by some young men.  She knocks on a wooden counter and says she has never been a crime victim.  Smith says the threat of crime won't keep her from going were she needs to go. 

"That was sad, but no, I'm not afraid to go to the places, because this is my community.  I can't be afraid.  I'm not going to hide from these people. No, uh-uh." 

Another north side resident, Doris Cunningham, says while she's not going to let crime drive her out of town after spending 40 years here, she understands why some people leave.

"Lots, lots of people getting robbed.  Lots of shooting.  Young people are scared to go out of their houses because of this. Older people are scared to go out of their houses.  Robberies are just crazy."

Like Rose Smith, Cunningham says she has not been a victim of violent crime.  However, Cunningham says her garage was broken into recently.  But she knows others haven't been so lucky. 

"My neighbor, she was at home sleeping.  Some guy came through the window and was laying next to her.  She screamed and everything.  I called the police.  So I'm just glad, at this time police have been beefed up in our neighborhood, because we needed that."

Police officials say they are looking forward to hiring more officers this year.  They say more cops mean faster response times to 911 calls.  The department has also started using a gunshot detection system called Shot Spotter on the south side of the city.   Police officials say the system helped them arrest a suspect with a gun several weeks ago, only seven hours after the system came on line