Toward the end of last year, downtown Minneapolis had experienced a significant drop in crime. In fact, after drawing attention to increased rates of violent crime in 2016 and 2017, the Editorial Board lauded the improvement that had taken place in 2018 after police joined business and community leaders in a coordinated response.
But an uptick in crime this year has some business owners and residents worried. The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) reports that violent crime in the downtown west area has increased by 26% (over the previous year) since the beginning of 2019. Business owners and residents say they’ve seen and felt that difference and are concerned about the next few months of warm weather. They understandably don’t want to see a return of the years in which downtown assaults, robberies and shootings become all too common.
City officials and MPD need to move quickly to put more officers on downtown streets and increase their focus efforts on known offenders. They should also expand the community-based preventive efforts that helped bring crime rates down for much of 2018.
Among the 174 violent crimes reported this year in downtown west, on June 10 a man was shot and killed just steps from the First Precinct police station. Police say he was apparently trying to break up an early-morning fight in an alley near the Gay ’90s bar. A second man was seriously injured in the same shooting.
And in early May, another man died after being shot on the 300 block of N. 1st Avenue. MPD reported that a disturbance between two groups of people escalated into the gunfire that caused the fatality.
Gun violence wasn’t restricted to downtown, of course. Over a 48-hour span the weekend of May 18, eight people were injured in six separate shootings across Minneapolis.
Yet when it comes to downtown, as we’ve argued previously, crime and safety can have a much wider impact and affect more people than in many other neighborhoods. The city’s core has become increasingly residential and now boasts more than 60,000 residents. And downtown is the center of the city’s entertainment district, with stadiums, arenas and dozens of bars, restaurants, and theater and concert venues.
Those entertainment options bring thousands of people from the region and the state downtown. The city can’t afford to have people skip those events because they are too worried about their safety.
City officials need to listen to downtown business owners, residents and visitors. Their top requests are more officers and more help keeping young people and the homeless out of trouble. That also means preventing them from becoming vicitims.
It’s promising that for the 15th consecutive summer, Minneapolis and Metro Transit police and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office are providing additional officers to respond to street problems and focus on crime hot spots as part of the SafeZone initiative. But it may not be enough.
Warmer weather is just getting started. And that means the city should double down on efforts to make sure that the crime trends that have emerged in 2019 don’t continue throughout the summer.