13 June 2022
Minneapolis residents of Downtown East have banded together to clamp down on rising violent crimes in their neighborhood.
The group has launched an online fundraising campaign to help with hiring an off-duty police officer to patrol the Mill District neighborhood from 5 to 10 p.m. in the summer. So far, it has raised more than $4,000 toward its $30,000 goal.
“This is a community initiative,” said Pam McCrea, board president of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association. “We don’t have an exceptionally high crime rate, but what we wanted to do was assure people that, in fact, no matter which way they define public safety, they are safe in our neighborhood.”
Violent crime in Downtown East doubled in 2020, according to Minneapolis crime statistics, and remained elevated above pre-pandemic averages last year. The aim of the pilot project, which is in its infancy, is to deter crime and help rebuild the relationship between the Minneapolis Police Department and the community.
“We want to test the community policing model so that the police can get to know the business owners, they get to know the people that live in the neighborhood,” McCrea said. “It would be our hope that if this model works, that maybe other neighborhood associations could work on implementing something like this.”
But not everyone is on board. Some argue that there’s a dire need for police across the city, particularly in neighborhoods with higher crime rates. Others say such efforts could take policing dollars away from communities that can’t afford to hire police patrols.
This year, residents of neighboring Downtown West were the first to launch a similar effort to curb the high crime rate in the Lowry Hill neighborhood. The group tapped the city’s “buyback” program, which required the City Council’s approval, to get more police patrols.
The growing concern about crime in downtown comes amid a tense debate, including a legal wrangle over police staffing in Minneapolis. The police force has about 280 fewer officers than it did at the time of George Floyd’s murder two years ago. Meanwhile, the city is grappling with the worst violent crime increase in decades.
“We all know that the city is not as safe as it used to be,” said Council Member Michael Rainville, whose Third Ward includes the Downtown East neighborhood. “Every neighborhood in Minneapolis deserves community policing.”
Rainville was involved in a similar project in northeast Minneapolis more than two decades ago, and neighborhood residents turned to him for advice. He said they have had a couple of sessions so far and are continuing to flesh out details of the project.
But, he said, hiring a beat cop will help improve safety in the neighborhood and restore trust in police.
“Policing is only effective when people trust the police,” Rainville said.
Staff writer Jeff Hargarten contributed to this story.