Faced with a rise in gun crime in north Minneapolis, police will conduct stepped-up patrols this summer using joint operations with other law enforcement agencies as well as citizen patrols of the neighborhoods where gunfire is common.
The patrols are among several efforts being weighed to confront gun violence, said Police Chief Janeé Harteau.
“Our targets are who’s pulling the trigger, who’s getting the guns,” she said at a news conference Friday.
The strategy was drawn from a “Northside Safety Summit” held last month in which Harteau brought together top law enforcement officials from across the Twin Cities to meet with neighborhood representatives, faith leaders and others to talk about crime.
Data released last month revealed that the number of gun incidents in Minneapolis increased to its highest annual total since 2008, with 1,442. That’s up 8 percent from 1,330 in 2012, and it represents a second consecutive annual increase.
Robberies in 2013 were up nearly 8 percent citywide, with north Minneapolis seeing a 39 percent increase.
A glimmer of good news: The city’s ShotSpotter system, which covers a portion of the North Side, activated 98 times so far this year; that’s down from 128 a year ago. Still, there are plenty of guns out there: Police have seized 190 guns in north Minneapolis so far this year, a 41 percent increase over last year.
City Council President Barb Johnson, who represents the North Side, said one of her constituents told her they were awakened by gunshots at 4 a.m. Friday.
“We can’t have people worrying about what’s going on in the streets outside their homes,” she said.
The joint patrols, dubbed Joint Enforcement Teams, could see Minneapolis officers patrolling with officers from other agencies, perhaps the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office or the Metro Transit Police Department, Harteau said. They will patrol areas with a history of violent crime. The patrols will be in addition to what’s already scheduled, she said.
Also, some of the police officers assigned to city schools as school resource officers will patrol by bicycle this summer, adding to the increased patrols, said Harteau.
Johnson said funding for the patrols hasn’t been approved yet. They’re slated to begin June 1, according to Harteau.
The civilian patrols began Thursday evening. V.J. Smith, the president of MAD DADS, and the Rev. Richard D. Howell Jr. of Shiloh Temple International Ministries in Minneapolis said the first “faith patrol” walked along W. Broadway.
“We took a group of young men out with us that were formerly in gangs,” said Smith, whose group works to keep neighborhoods safe. “What we want to do is not to only patrol, but to show them what it’s like to give back.”
Howell, meanwhile, said the civilian patrols are meant to be engaging and friendly, not confrontational, but they will patrol areas that have seen violent crime.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said he would add extra patrol cars to north Minneapolis this summer. Johnson said she’s hearing from constituents that they want to see response times improved.
A recent Results Minneapolis report showed that the average response time for top priority calls was nine minutes and 14 seconds citywide, which is slower than in years past. In the Fourth Precinct, which covers the North Side, the average response time was 10 minutes and three seconds.
Response times were slower last year just as Police Department staff numbers fell to one of their lowest levels in a decade, with roughly 800 sworn officers. There’s money available to hire 50 more officers, but hiring new officers takes time, said Johnson.
Programs set for Saturday
Two additional anti-crime events are scheduled for Saturday in the city. Shiloh Temple is hosting a discussion on youth gun violence that organizers said in an announcement “will touch on historical and social aspects of the issue, and its impact on communities of color.”
Among those speaking at the event, which starts at 2 p.m., are Howell and Ferome Brown, youth coordinator for Protect Minnesota, a statewide organization dedicated to ending gun violence.
At the same time Saturday in northeast Minneapolis, a street walk organized by the Rev. Harding Smith is scheduled to start at 1st and University Avs.
Organizers say the walk is in response to the stabbings of two University of Minnesota students on May 5 near that intersection by a lone attacker, who has yet to be caught.