Minneapolis robberies, shootings rise in 2013, other crimes drop

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau
At a press conference Tuesday, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau said that while violent crime rose in the city last year, it was still at a much lower level than much of the last 30 years.
Brandt Williams / MPR News

Reports of violent crimes in Minneapolis during 2013 rose slightly over the number reported in 2012, leading police officials to promise increased attention to reducing robberies and shootings.

But the city also saw reports of some violent crimes drop, which Police Chief Janee Harteau attributed to increased interaction between officers and residents.

The city saw a nearly 8 percent increase in the number of reported robberies, from 1,720 to 1,855. The number of reported aggravated assaults also rose, from 1,704 to 1,763.

Although the Minneapolis Police Department recorded 39 killings in 2013, officially, homicides dropped from 40 in 2012 to 36 in 2013, as the department does not report homicides determined to be justified.

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The number of reported rapes fell from 416 to 385, and the city also saw fewer non-violent crimes such as burglaries.

Despite the mixed results, Harteau said credit for the areas of improvement can be attributed to a policy she instituted last year which encouraged officers to get out of their patrol cars and meet with people one on one.

"They've been on horseback, they've been on bikes, they've been in areas where we normally haven't seen them," Harteau said of the department's officers. "They've been out in neighborhoods and that's been incredibly important. So they've made new connections, new relationships. Why? Because people can talk to somebody who's not in a police car."

Harteau said officer visibility has been particularly helpful in the Dinkytown area and the University of Minnesota campus, which saw a rash of robberies and sexual assaults in 2013.

Business owner Greg Pillsbury said officers patrolling the campus are doing a good job.

"We have undercovers around. We have a lot of eyes on the street in Dinkytown," he said. "Both the police, the owners like me, and then the residents. There's people watching. And when we need to call 911, we do. And when we call them, they show up."

Harteau also stressed the importance of residents reaching out to police officers to help solve crimes.

In one case, police received a valuable tip from a resident, after the department issued a crime alert about some burglaries in a northeast Minneapolis neighborhood, said Lt. Bruce Jensen, an investigator in the 2nd Precinct.

"And what do you know? We got a call from a citizen who saw that crime alert and we wound up making an arrest on that, because of that crime alert," Jensen said. "That's what the whole thing started with."

Harteau said juvenile violence also decreased by 4.6 percent in 2013. For that, she credits the outreach efforts of youth engagement workers employed by the city who regularly meet and talk with young people downtown.

Homicides in Minneapolis, 2013
The numbers on the graph represent the total number of homicides recorded by the Minneapolis Police Department in 2013. However, the official homicide numbers reported to the FBI do not include homicides determined to be committed in self defense or are justified police killings. These numbers may be slightly higher than the numbers reported in the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reports.
Bill Wareham / MPR News graphic

Their job is to get to know the teenagers standing at bus stops and on street corners, said James Everett, a youth engagement worker. Sometimes he and other workers would bring along glow-in-the-dark footballs and other items that help them engage teens by "just playing with the kids out there at the bus stop, and just having a good time — a little Nerf hoops and things like that and finding out what people need."

But in the bad news category, gun violence — particularly in north Minneapolis — went up. Robberies increased 37 percent on the north side of the city, where the number of shootings rose by 7 percent.

Harteau says many of the robberies were committed with firearms or BB guns. She said guns are still too readily accessible to people who shouldn't have them — including gang members.

"We did see some uptick in some of the gangs that certainly were settling scores this year, but nothing that was out of the norm," she said.

Several young Somali American men, some known or suspected to be affiliated with gangs, were involved in shooting deaths this year. On June 1, police say, 25-year-old Mohamed Omar Aden, was shot to death while sitting in a car in northeast Minneapolis.

According to court documents, police investigators believe Aden was killed in retaliation for his role in the homicide of Guled Mohamed killed in May of 2011. Police say they believe Guled Mohamed was a member of a Somali gang called Madibaan With Attitude. Since Aden's death, at least four Somali American men have been shot to death.

Farhio Khalif, a community activist and NAACP member who came to the chief's press conference at a public library in northeast Minneapolis, asked what police are doing about the killings.

"We have so many people who have been killed in 2013 and we don't have any answers," Khalif said. "Nobody's following up on that."

Harteau said she and other members of the police department regularly interact with members of the Somali American community and are working hard to help prevent retaliatory violence.

The number of shootings, calls about shots fired and shots noted by the city's gunshot detection system recorded in north Minneapolis in 2013 dwarfed amounts reported in precincts that cover other parts of the city. Last year, more than 2,500 gunshot related calls were recorded in the 4th Precinct. That's more than half of all gunshot related calls reported citywide.

Also during that same period, officers in the 4th Precinct recovered more than 350 guns — more than half of all the firearms placed into evidence by officers throughout the city.

Longtime north Minneapolis resident Clinton Collins said he appreciates the hard work of officers working the north side, but said more officers will not solve some of the basic problems he sees in his neighborhood.

"I think the problem is you have kids raising kids," Collin said. "And we're now in the third or fourth generation of kids raising kids. I really think that is the biggest piece."

Collins said too many young people are growing up in dysfunctional families and get started off in life on the wrong foot. He said the best short- term solution is to arrest and remove people who are disrupting the neighborhood.

"And then once we get some of the worst of the worst out of our neighborhoods, then we need to address some of these other historical issues," he said. "Some kids that I dealt with this summer, they're just bad people — for whatever reason. They are bad news and they need to be away from me and my family."

Collins said he's directly confronted some of the young people selling drugs or causing trouble on his block. Once, he said, one of them threw a brick through one of the windows of his house.