Public concerned over rowdiness in Dinkytown, but officials say crime rates are down

Police stop a car in Dinkytown
The University of Minnesota Police Department typically only patrols campus grounds. It extended its presence into surrounding neighborhoods to support Minneapolis police forces after a series of incidents in Dinkytown between May 4-7.
Feven Gerezgiher | MPR News

Reports of a mob of teens “terrorizing” Dinkytown, a commercial district bordering the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, stoked fears about area safety earlier this week. Law enforcement agencies are teaming up to increase security measures, but officials say the apprehension is overblown.

“This has just obviously hit the news cycle pretty hard,” said Inspector Sean McGinty, commanding officer for the Minneapolis Police Department’s 2nd precinct.

Minneapolis police reported 12 incidents between May 4 and Sunday involving groups of primarily underage youth gathered in Dinkytown. A video shared on social media allegedly showed some of those teens beating up another individual.

An 18-year-old was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and possession of fireworks on May 5, according to Hennepin County court records. On Sunday, records indicate both he and a 19-year-old were arrested for probable cause of riot.

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Seven juveniles and one adult female, age unknown, received citations over the weekend. The Minneapolis Police Department said it cannot provide details on individual juvenile cases. In a media brief summarizing several incidents, police reported youth were cited for nonviolent reasons like violating curfew, fleeing police and disorderly conduct. The most serious citation was for fifth degree assault — the lowest level of assault.

McGinty said crime in Dinkytown has declined over the last year, while the juvenile crime rate remains steady, with the exception of auto thefts. He said there’s been a spike in juvenile auto theft since a TikTok video came out last year showing people how to steal Hyundai and Kia vehicles.

“It's always shocking when people see that level of violence, but I wouldn't say it's any different,” said McGinty. “It has moved around the city. We have seen it downtown. Groups are mobile. We've seen it all at the Mall of America and different jurisdictions. Kids are more mobile these days.”

Of the youth that MPD made contact with, 35 were from suburbs and eight from Minneapolis, according to MPD Chief Brian O’Hara at a community safety meeting on Tuesday.

The Minneapolis crime dashboard shows a decrease over the last year in most crimes excluding motor vehicle theft and property crimes, such as vandalism, across Minneapolis northeast of the Mississippi River.

In the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood specifically, however, the dashboard recorded a slight uptick in assault offenses and reports of shots fired. 

Students, workers, residents concerned about Dinkytown safety

Dinkytown has been a social and cultural hub for young people in Minneapolis for over a century. Located off the state’s largest college, it’s a walkable area historically known for its range of unique small businesses and vibrant nightlife.

Javier Rucker lives and works in the area. He said it tends to get rowdy once the snow melts.

“I usually open on Mondays. When I come around, usually Dinkytown is pretty trashed. There's like a lot of trash everywhere,” Rucker said.

“It’s kind of crazy,” said Cory Johnson, manager of late-night pizza spot Frank and Andreas. He said they took down TVs in the restaurant because of customers throwing around chairs. “Like old people can't even come here at night just to eat pizza or sit down and enjoy it because they're shooting or throwing stuff.”

Johnson said one employee was attacked after work.

Many students and workers mentioned taking precautions like walking in groups at night or carrying pepper spray. They also said they still feel safe in the area.

“I myself have never been assaulted or anything like that around here. I don't know anyone personally really close that has,” said U sophomore Christopher Thompson, who lives and works in Dinkytown. He said he’s concerned about Dinkytown safety based on stories from friends of friends, news reports and text or app alerts about neighborhood crimes.

Many also acknowledged women have a different experience, facing regular harassment from men.

“A guy literally grabbed my arm once because I would not stop to talk to him. It’s scary,” said Sara Thompson, a fourth-year history major, walking with her friends on Tuesday afternoon. “I can't even go out at night to hang out with my friends because I'm like, ‘Something might happen.’”

U senior and Minneapolis native Sophia Ostergren said their fears are compounded by violent incidents on campus and in other U neighborhoods. “I can name multiple people who have had something happen to them on campus, whether that be from a student or from someone who's not a student,” she said.

Increased police presence in Dinkytown

The Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association gathered a panel of elected officials and law enforcement leaders on Tuesday to share more on what happened last weekend and how to address it.

MPD Chief O’Hara said the department was swift to reallocate resources to Dinkytown last weekend and called in support from the Minnesota State Patrol and Metro Transit. He said they will continue to have additional patrols and traffic disruption plans in Dinkytown on weekend evenings.

“That's, I think, a very smart way the inspector has to try and disrupt these folks because we know they're coming in personal vehicles and they're coming in from suburban areas into the community,” O’Hara said.

There are now three light trailers and a mobile camera with a live feed to the university’s dispatch center which will be in place through the weekend, according to Nick Juarez, assistant director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the university’s Department of Public Safety.

The U police department is fully staffing its units to support public safety off campus ahead of this weekend, which is expected to bring more than 40,000 people to the area for graduation ceremonies. Volunteers and “safety guides” will be available to assist visitors, according to a commencement safety plan released Monday.

Different stakeholders have been coordinating on U campus safety over the last year, seeking improvements like better street lighting. In its recently passed higher education omnibus bill, the Minnesota Legislature included $10 million over two years for safety and security measures on all five University of Minnesota campuses.

Youth diversion needs to also be a priority, officials recognized at the community meeting.

“I absolutely look forward to working with my colleagues to figure out how we're expanding that work, making sure that it's culturally responsive to the diverse communities that we serve across Minneapolis,” said Minneapolis Ward 2 council member Robin Wonsley.

Rashad Ahmed attended the meeting as a concerned community member. He helps encourage young people to take different paths through his nonprofit, the Metro Youth Diversion Center, and said youth programming has been a successful way to disrupt community violence.

“A lot of them are very brilliant. They're very smart, hardworking kids. They're just not challenged enough. They're not finding programs that can challenge them to think outside the box,” he said.

How people can help or stay safe:

- Get text alerts — Dinkytown Alerts, SAFE-U (for on UMN campus)

- Get an escort — University security with 624-WALK

- Report suspicious activity to police