Dear Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and members of the City Council:
I have lived in north Minneapolis for eight years. I am active in my neighborhood. I volunteer here. I attend block club meetings. I report any and all suspicious activity to the police when I see it.
I am writing to express concern, frustration and sadness about what is happening in my neighborhood. As a high school special education teacher, I couldn’t afford to buy a place in south Minneapolis, and my heart and mind were set on living in the actual city. I found a charming house in the Victory neighborhood, which many people assured me was the “good” part of north Minneapolis.
Over the past eight years, I have come to realize that while I may be in the “good” part, all of north Minneapolis is one place. I am affected deeply by the troubles that continue to plague our community.
I have been victimized by property crimes like vandalism and attempted burglary. I have seen drug deals within a block of my house. My late boyfriend witnessed an armed home invasion next door. I have heard my neighbor’s story of getting robbed while out looking for his cat. I have heard the story of my next-door neighbor being threatened by a man after stopping to help a woman the man had abused. I have seen men coming from a house across the street with guns in their waistbands. I have found drug paraphernalia while walking my dog. Many of my neighbors’ houses and cars have been broken into. These incidents have prompted me to put chains and padlocks around my gates. I installed a security alarm. Had a neighbor down the alley not installed an outdoor camera, I would have done that, too.
And remember, I live in the “good” part.
Most important, my boyfriend was killed in north Minneapolis in 2014, about a mile from my house. He offered to give a ride to an acquaintance, who asked him to stop at a house so he could run inside. When people inside the house saw that person, they came out shooting. My boyfriend, shot in the head and neck, died immediately. He was completely innocent.
My late boyfriend’s family and I were not notified of this tragedy, even though he had been driving my car and had identification on him. We drove for hours, from hospital to hospital, asking about our missing loved one. We heard of a shooting on the North Side, and I called the Fourth Precinct. The precinct confirmed there had been an incident but could not give more details. My boyfriend died at 10 p.m. on a Sunday. We learned of his death at 4 a.m. Monday, when his mom called the Hennepin County Coroner’s Office.
I will never be the same person I was before that night. I learned just how real the North Side’s issues are. The news did a story on my boyfriend’s killing. The news always reports on the problems of the North Side. The only thing worse than reading the news about north Minneapolis is reading the comments on the stories. It is much easier to turn away and ignore this until you become a victim.
The thing is, we have had enough victims.
I am writing to demand action. Residents of our city have chosen you as our elected officials. Mayor Hodges, I remember the night your husband came into a local shop where I worked part time. He told me of your commitment to helping people who were struggling financially. He said that you understood complexities of racial injustice because you have a biracial family. He spoke of your willingness and desire to improve livability in north Minneapolis. I believed him. I voted for you. In fact, I voted for many of you in city government. You represent the city of Minneapolis. You represent the North Side. You represent me. That is what I am asking you to do.
Our community requires increased police presence, and those officers should be hand-selected to address the specific needs of the North Side. We will not tolerate racial profiling or officers exerting force just because they can. We want police partners. When I have called the police to report crimes, the response has ranged from five minutes to not showing up at all. This is unacceptable. We continually hear of increased police presence on the North Side. I can honestly say that I don’t remember the last time I saw a patrol car in my neighborhood, but we do hear sirens all the time.
Our community needs increased education about and action on slumlords. We feel powerless as citizens, because we see the problems poorly managed properties cause our community. We report issues but rarely see any noticeable change.
We need outreach programs for our young people. When there is literally nothing to do in your neighborhood but be outside running the streets, is it any surprise that crimes are committed? We need funding for projects like neighborhood involvement and organization, streetlights, cameras and garbage cans. We need change.
People ask me all the time why I live in north Minneapolis. I have every reason to leave. The truth is, I don’t want to. I want to stay in the community that surrounded me with love and support after my boyfriend was killed. There are a number of positive things happening that never make the papers.
I want to live in the house I chose eight years ago. I want to unlock my gates. I want to feel like I can walk in my neighborhood without watching my back. I want to raise a family here. I want to see that my elected officials care enough about me to make my community safe for everyone, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, criminal history, gender, age and physical location in the city.
I am a proud resident of north Minneapolis. But as much as I want to stay, I know I can’t if these issues aren’t addressed. I am not alone in that thinking. Many of my friends and neighbors express thoughts of leaving. Some already have left.
Playing the North Side game of “shots or fireworks” any time there’s a loud pop outside is a way of life here. Do you understand how traumatizing that is for someone who has lost a loved one to gun violence? I was diagnosed with PTSD after my boyfriend’s killing, and I am continually revictimized when I hear gunshots outside my home. The other day, shots were fired at 35th and Knox. That is directly outside my late boyfriend’s family’s house. Please take a minute to consider how that must feel for them, and know that there are thousands of other North Side residents experiencing the same thing.
People on the North Side are surrounded by suffocating violence. It’s a cancer. I invite any of you to come spend time here. Talk to us. Listen to our ideas. Build relationships with us. Learn from us. My home is open to you at any time. And remember, I live in the “good” part of North. What about the people who don’t?
You cannot continue to turn your backs on us. We deserve to live in peace.
Jarren Peterson lives in Minneapolis.