Minneapolis business leaders delivered a sharply worded letter to Mayor Betsy Hodges this week, expressing dismay over "unchecked flagrant, aggressive and sometimes criminal behavior" downtown, and demanding that the city prepare to address the problem as soon as spring arrives.

"Looking ahead, we are steadfast in our position that we cannot have another year like this one!" said the letter, which was sent Monday by the leaders of Meet Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Council and Building Owners and Managers Association.

"We must continue to create and sustain both the reality and perception of a safe, welcoming downtown. When we fail to consistently achieve this goal, we place the future of Minneapolis and the viability of our downtown at risk."

The business groups want more visible police presence, youth outreach, additional safety cameras and lighting, and perhaps school safety zones around city bus stops used by students.

They want a plan ready to go by April 1.

Hodges replied Tuesday, explaining that she met with business leaders in October and committed to carrying out a new plan by April.

"I am gratified that your top request of me is to implement the ideas I proposed two months ago," she said.

While violent crime downtown has decreased in 2016 compared with last year, the letter highlights growing concern from businesses about the atmosphere on Hennepin Avenue and persistent gun violence in the Warehouse District.

Two shootings there on one night in October wounded six people.

Hodges said she was puzzled by the timing of the letter, signed by Jonathan Weinhagen, Steve Cramer, Melvin Tennant and Kevin Lewis, since the last budget markup was Friday and budget approval is Wednesday.

She said she was planning to start work on a plan for downtown public safety after the budget's approval.

"As we work to schedule our first meeting, I will take as agenda items the capitalized points in your letter," she said.

The proposed 2017 Minneapolis budget includes funding for 15 additional police officers, as well as funding for mental health public safety responders, group violence intervention and community-driven collaborative safety strategies.

A last-second amendment to the budget on Wednesday night took $250,000 from the Meet Minneapolis budget and used the money to fund community-based policing in downtown Minneapolis. Council Member Lisa Goodman proposed the amendment and it passed unanimously.

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