Mpls. police unveil plans to halt spike in violence

Rybak and Dolan
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan at Farview Park in north Minneapolis on Thursday, June 3, where they discussed recent crime trends in the city.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Minneapolis city officials unveiled plans Thursday to keep the city's recent spike in violence from getting worse.

The latest anti-crime strategies have been used before. Police say many of the criminals involved in this year's violence are familiar, too. But police officials say what's new, is that some of the violence has spread into unfamiliar territory.

It's another Thursday and that means another Hawthorne Huddle at Farview Park in north Minneapolis. The meetings are hosted by the General Mills Foundation and they often attract a healthy crowd of neighborhood residents and community activists. But on this morning, a larger than usual crowd came to hear city officials talk about crime and ask them what they're doing about it.

"This is absolutely an unacceptable level of violence that we have," said Mayor R.T. Rybak.

R.T. Rybak presented a five-point strategy to reduce the violence and said the first part of the plan uses police intelligence to analyze who's committing crime and why. Rybak said unlike in past years, this latest spike is not being caused by juveniles.

"This is a small number of people who are very violent and they are a little bit older than that," he said. "So we're going to focus like a laser on that."

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Rybak says police will also continue their crackdown on juvenile crime as well as their efforts to take illegal guns off the street. The mayor says these efforts have worked in the past and last year were responsible for bringing violent crime in the city to a 27-year low.

The plan also calls for increased support for community-based efforts by groups of residents who form block clubs. But some residents have heard this strategy before and aren't impressed.

"We are a little weary of being told to form block clubs and perform stroll patrols," said Chris Painter, who lives in the Lind-Bohannon neighborhood in north Minneapolis.

Traditionally, most of the shootings on the northside haven't reached as far north as Lind-Bohannon, but in just the last week the area has seen a homicide and shooting.

Painter said her neighbors feel like the police are neglecting them. And she says many are too scared to go out and do work that police should be doing.

"The other problem we have is that people in our neighborhood that still have homes -- we have a lot of empty homes -- are working one or two jobs," she said. "They don't have time to devote to a stroll patrol."

Painter's comment drew a couple of responses. Fourth Precinct Inspector Mike Martin said the department has recently focused more patrols in Lind-Bohannon. "We have this kind of a constant struggle of resources and how do we allocate them. And definitely we have moved some resources up into your neighborhood," he said.

Tim Dolan
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan talks crime stats. Next to him is Ellen Luger of the General Mills Foundation, sponsor of the Hawthorne Huddle held monthly at Farview Park.
MPR Photo/Brandt Williams

Martin says the recent violence in Lind-Bohannon shows that some people, known by police to be repeat offenders, are moving around.

Police Chief Tim Dolan added that criminals are spreading out to places with lighter police presence to avoid arrest.

But some residents at the Hawthorne Huddle say they are tired of going to meetings to talk about crime and talk about what the police need to do. Jamil Jackson says there a lot of different ways people can combat crime, but they have to do something.

"I heard this lady talk about, 'Everybody has to work and everyone has to do things so they can't come out of their house or can't do this.'" he said. "I'm a single father of three. My kids live with me full time. I'm at this park everyday from about three or four o'clock until about nine o'clock with all these kids in the community and I don't get paid for this."

Jackson teaches construction courses at Dunwoody College of Technology. He's also the founder of a non-profit called Change Equals Opportunity. Jackson, who is African-American, coaches and mentors dozens of black teenagers through several initiatives including a basketball league.

He says not every young black kid hanging out on the corner is a criminal. Jackson says if people really want to know why the young men are just hanging around, they should ask them.

"Half of them are respectful young men," he said. "They just have no direction. And all of us as kids have no direction if we nobody to follow."

City officials are trying other ways to keep young people from hanging out with nothing to do this summer. They announced 2,300 summer jobs that will be available this year through the city's Step Up program. Under the program, youth ages 14-21 participate in internships at businesses throughout the city.