After violent viral videos, downtown Minneapolis leaders want more cops

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Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, joined by Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, speaks at a press conference on April 3, 2019. While the city data show this summer was nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to the number of violent crimes, many downtown leaders are worried about the perception of their community and are calling for more policing in the area.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Downtown Minneapolis isn’t any less safe than normal, if you’re looking at violent crime stats. But recent viral videos of brutal robberies show something else.

In one, a group of men approach a lone person near Target Field. They take turns beating him to the ground, strip off some of his clothing and rifle through his pockets, apparently trying to take anything they can.

Another video shows a similar violent mugging by a large group of people, this time near light rail tracks one night.

This summer was a more violent one for downtown than last, Minneapolis police say. While city data show summer 2019 was nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to the number of violent crimes, many downtown leaders are worried about the perception of their community and are calling for more policing in the area.

“There's just been a general sense that downtown has been a little less inviting from a safety standpoint. And that's hard to measure but it's real,” said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District.

Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder said three videos made the media rounds.

“Each was violent and incomprehensible,” he said in an email. “This certainly left an impression on the viewers.”

On Tuesday, leaders from the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and Lynx penned an op-ed in the Star Tribune supporting Mayor Jacob Frey’s plan to add 14 officers.

It was a rare unified move from the sports executives. But they’ve had safety concerns top of mind for months, said Ted Johnson, chief strategy officer for the Timberwolves and Lynx.

“I think all of us with the sports teams have grown increasingly concerned with what we see happening in downtown in terms of the rise in crime and [fan experience],” he said.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo wants more police than Frey’s proposing — 400 additional officers by 2025. Both could be a tough sell in Minneapolis, though. Frey’s proposal was met with immediate protest from anti-police violence activists.

Johnson said he has worked downtown for 17 years and in the past six months, multiple Timberwolves and Lynx employees reported being assaulted downtown.

Even though crime statistics don’t show a particularly violent summer, Johnson said, the videos illustrate what he sees as a rougher downtown.

“The video tells a much different story,” he said, “[it] adds that color commentary.”

Minneapolis police appear to have made some headway on at least two of the group robberies. The Hennepin County attorney earlier this month charged 18 people in connection with the Target Field and light rail robberies. A 19th man was charged this week, reports show.

“The arrests have made an impact,” Elder said. “We can certainly say that we made an incredible impact on the numbers of violent crimes in the downtown with the arrest of the individuals. … They were a real mobile crime wave.”

Still, Elder acknowledged there’s crime downtown and multiple incidents from summer are under investigation.

For Cramer of the Downtown Improvement District, police downtown are “stretched way too thin.” He supports the mayor’s proposal to add 14 officers.

“The additional officers as proposed by the mayor — and hopefully over a period of time really — are necessary for the police to do the job in the way that our current chief wants them to,” Cramer said.

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