Stops by cops increase in downtown Minneapolis, North Side

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 14, 2013 - 7:06 AM

Other Minneapolis areas see declines, fueling questions on race, crime trends.

 

Minneapolis police officers have stopped thousands of people and vehicles in downtown and north Minneapolis this year for being “suspicious,” even as stops in other parts of the city have declined, city records show.

The stops — averaging about 38 a day downtown and 47 daily on the North Side so far this year, both areas that traditionally have more minorities — drew an expression of concern about possible racial profiling from the former director of the city’s Civil Rights Commission.

But police representatives and a City Council member said the stops are little more than a reflection of crime trends, including a 16 percent rise in violent crime in north Minneapolis this year over the same period last year. In some cases, higher crime and strong community concern about it led to a stronger police presence, they say.

“I’m really pleased to see [the police stops]. It tells me they’re productive,” said City Council President Barb Johnson, who lives on the North Side.

City statistics do not show the race of the person who was stopped, nor do they indicate if the stop led to a citation or arrest. The tally of suspicious stops includes those triggered by 911 calls, as well as those police initiated on their own.

The numbers were included in the city’s weekly crime statistics report, which for the most recent week recorded (Aug. 6-12) show the following:

Citywide, suspicious-vehicle stops are up 18 percent so far this year compared with the same time frame last year; suspicious-pedestrian stops are down 7 percent.

In downtown Minneapolis, such vehicle stops are up 74 percent, with pedestrian stops up 19 percent.

On the North Side, vehicle stops are up 31 percent, while pedestrian stops are up 45 percent.

By contrast, in southwest Minneapolis, suspicious-vehicle and pedestrian stops are down 7 and 21 percent, respectively — even as violent crime in that area rose by 4 percent.

Some of the increases are even more dramatic when compared with two years ago: Downtown, suspicious-person stops are up 92 percent this year in relation to the same period in 2011.

Interpretations vary

“To me, that’s just stop-and-frisk,” Kenneth Brown, former chairman of the city’s Civil Rights Commission said, referring to the police practice that was limited by a federal judge this week in New York. “They won’t explain it that way, but I guarantee you that if you have an outside source come and take a look at it, that’s what they’re going to come up with,” Brown said.

But Johnson, the council president, disputed that assertion. “I reject the profiling analogy,” she said.

Cyndi Barrington, a Minneapolis police spokeswoman, said the downtown and North Side beats were strengthened this summer with extra officers, which likely led to more stops. In addition, it may be partly the result of better recording, she said, because officers now are encouraged to record each suspicious stop.

“These numbers reflect the accountability of officers,” Barrington said. “Chief [Janeé] Harteau and the command staff have directed the officers to focus on crime. If there’s an increase in burglary in a certain area, then there’s more directed patrol in the alleyways.”

Barrington gave an example. In a recent homicide case, officers were directed to look for a specific type and color of car. That one directive may have led to several suspicious vehicle stops, she said.

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