Most 911 calls in north Minneapolis involve problematic addresses

Officers Lisa Marks, Paul Gillies
Minneapolis police officers Lisa Marks and Paul Gillies respond to a call on Russell Ave. North.
MPR photo/Brandt Williams

In a typical year, police officers in north Minneapolis respond to nearly 90,000 emergency calls — usually more than any other precinct in the city.

Officers say the majority of those calls involve addresses they've been to repeatedly, and that many of the calls are a drain on resources that could be used to fight more serious crime.

The north Minneapolis block where Connie Beckers has lived for nearly 20 years is canopied by trees that tower over mostly well-kept homes. Over the years, she has seen good neighbors come and go.

"The beige one, I haven't met that guy yet. But he's a good guy. He lives there; he rents it and has fixed it up really good," Beckers said. "The people who used to live there, our kids grew up together."

Beckers has also had some awful neighbors here on Girard Ave. North. There have been party houses and drug houses. Besides the noise, Beckers said oftentimes litter and empty marijuana baggies spill over onto her and her neighbors' yards.

"I call on gunshots, I call on loud parties, I call on what I see for drug dealing. I was just telling a friend yesterday that I find it kind of awkward in the morning I wake up and there's been a party on my front yard and I wasn't invited.

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"And I'm joking. I don't want to be invited."

Connie Beckers of Minneapolis
North Minneapolis resident Connie Beckers says she makes frequent 911 calls regarding a quadplex in her neighborhood that has loud parties and creates other disturbances.
MPR photo/Brandt Williams

Beckers said lately she has been calling 911 once or twice weekly to complain about a quadplex on the far south side of the block. Even on a midmorning there are several people hanging out on the front step. Beckers said people in cars pull up in front of the building to buy drugs and block traffic.

MPR News obtained a list of north Minneapolis addresses with the most police calls for service from the beginning of 2011 through September 2012. Topping the list is Cub Foods on West Broadway Ave., where police were called more than 1,200 times.

Luke Freidrich, a Cub Foods spokesman, said thousands of people come through the store every day, including shoplifters which draw a large share of the calls. Three north Minneapolis parks are also near the top of the list.

"The store is safe for customers and we make every effort to ensure that it is," Freidrich said. He added that store employees are required to call 911 in shoplifting cases.

The quadplex on Beckers' block did not make the list. But Minneapolis police officers Paul Gillies and Lisa Marks say they are both very familiar with the address.

"At the beginning of the summer it was bad because we had upstairs neighbors across the hall from each other were fighting. And they kept calling on each other," Mark said.

Paul Gillies said, "And then they were fighting and then there was gunplay and they were finding guns and chasing people."

Between the two of them, Gillies and Marks have nearly 30 years experience patrolling north Minneapolis. Gillies estimates more than 60 percent of the calls they respond to are to familiar addresses. He said they are often called back to rental properties whose managers have not properly screened their tenants.

Jason Blumenthal, co-owner of the Fulcrum Group, a Minneapolis property management company that handles the quadplex on Girard Ave. N., said even with strict background checks on tenants, frequent site visits and cooperation with law enforcement, it has been difficult to keep problem visitors away from that property. He said the company has evicted three of the building's four tenants.

Blumenthal said his company was hired when the building's owner discovered it was too tough to manage himself. Fulcrum handles about 30 buildings in the Twin Cities area.

"He's a really good guy," Blumenthal said. "He's not from the city. He came in and he wants to help make the city a better place and rent to people who normally wouldn't get places, but unfortunately, he's seen what happens with that sometimes.

But not all problematic residences are rental properties or commercial businesses. Gillies and Marks have made frequent visits to a block of Russell Ave. N. where a homeowner parks junk cars on trailers in front of his neighbors' homes.

Officer Lisa Marks
Officer Lisa Marks responds to a call on Russell Ave. N., in Minneapolis to assist city workers in to cleaning off paint marks on the street. The officers say the marks were made by a man who constantly parks junk cars on the street.
MPR photo/Brandt Williams

"This truck, this jeep, this trailer are all his," Marks said. "We get calls because people get tired of having his vehicles sitting on the street."

"Now this jeep must be new because he's never had that," Gillies said. "He always keeps his trailers hooked up to something."

Marks said she once arrested the vehicle owner after he took a swing at a tow truck driver who tried to haul away one of the cars.

Gillies stops the patrol car in an alley near the man's house and strikes up a conversation with one of the neighbors. The woman tells the officers that not only does the man park in front of her house, but he has yelled at her and stomped on the flowers in her garden.

"I don't know what else you guys can do for us, because I'm developing anxiety," she said.

Marks and Gillies are also part of the department's Crisis Intervention Team, which means they are trained to intervene with people who are mentally ill. Gillies, who has spoken before with the owner of the numerous vehicles, said he believes the man is mentally ill but isn't being treated for it.

There are problem properties all over the city, not just in north Minneapolis. But so far this year, violent crime on the north side is up nearly 15 percent over last year. The commander of the 4th precinct said the resources spent on problematic addresses could be better used to fight violent crime.