In response to three homicides and several other incidents of crime in the North River Hills area, Burnsville police will hold a community meeting Nov. 14 to allay residents' concerns about safety.
The meeting was prompted by incidents that included:
• The June 9 homicide of 4-year-old Keyontay Miller-Peterson at his home on Horizon Heights Road.
• The Aug. 13 homicide of Abdifatah Ahmed Mahumod, 23, and the wounding of another man in the Andrew's Pointe townhouse complex in the 2100 block of E. 117th Street.
• Twelve acts of vandalism — graffiti — on Aug. 28 in North River Hills Park, Birnamwood Golf Course and other places.
• A hostage situation Sept. 7 at a Holiday gas station. No one was injured.
• The Sept. 22 homicide of Palagor O. Jobi, 23, outside Nina's Grill and the disappearance of Anarae Schunk, 20, whose body was found nine days later in a roadside ditch in Rice County.
Police Chief Eric Gieseke said after the first few incidents, residents began to express their concern. After the fourth, they began to wonder what the heck was going on in their neighborhood. After the last, some became fearful — "understandably so," he said.
"You have all these things happen, then you have the State Patrol helicopters circling. That's unnerving and that's scary," Gieseke said.
With the meeting, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Mary, Mother of the Church, 3333 E. Cliff Road, police hope to put those crimes in perspective. Gieseke said there have been 30 homicides since the city's police department was started in 1964.
"If you spread that over 49 years, it's a pretty small percentage," he said.
"There's years we've gone without any homicides. For Burnsville to have three in just four months … it gets my attention. It's an anomaly. I don't think we have ever experienced this many events this close together. If the police department is feeling it, the community is feeling it."
In a news release about the meeting, Gieseke assured residents that "Burnsville is and continues to be a safe community. When our public has concerns, we have concerns as well. This community meeting is a means to have a discussion with our residents and businesses. We want to let them know what the Burnsville Police Department and its partner agencies are doing to help prevent crimes like this from occurring and the ways these criminals are being put to justice."
The chief said he wants residents to know that Burnsville has 75 sworn officers and 19 civilians "who work hard for them every day." And when the city's police force is busy, other agencies, such as the police from surrounding communities and the Dakota County Sheriff's Office, are happy to help.
"We don't work alone," the chief said.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Sheriff's Office, Eagan and Apple Valley police and other community partners will attend the meeting, the news release said.
In the meantime, Gieseke urged residents to call 911 if they see something suspicious. "If people see something, say something," he said. Pat Pheifer • 952-746-3284