At the same time that downtown Minneapolis is experiencing strong residential and business growth, parts of the city’s core have problems with safety and livability. For at least the last two years, downtown residential and business groups have complained about aggressive and criminal behavior downtown.
Given those valid concerns, it’s encouraging that the city is moving ahead with plans to address those issues. City officials say details of a downtown safety strategy will be announced later this month and that some of the efforts are already underway.
Though overall crime is down, police records show gun violence downtown increased by 20 percent in 2016, and the city’s Warehouse District is not off to a good start this year. The first and second homicides of 2017 occurred in the area in January as a result of late -ght shootings.
Mayor Betsy Hodges says the city has plans to take steps in four areas — law enforcement, legislative and judicial, outreach and ensuring that there are more constructive activities. Group violence and the daytime problems such as catcalling and blocking sidewalks require different types of policing. Four law enforcement agencies will work together to put more officers on the streets April through December and possibly into February 2018 during the Super Bowl.
The city will also seek some legislative and judicial changes that will target repeat offenders and impose geographic restrictions on troublemakers. At the same time, the strategy will involve preventive efforts including reaching out to those most likely to offend and having probation officers and youth workers on the streets to get ahead of crime.
Hodges said she and Police Chief Janeé Harteau have worked on the strategy along with representatives of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Council, Meet Minneapolis and downtown building owners and managers.
As the Star Tribune Editorial Board has argued previously, downtown safety and livability should be high on the city’s priority list and be a key issue in the mayoral campaign. The heart of Minneapolis is a key contributor to the region’s economic success, providing just over a third of all real estate tax revenue.
Yet the numerous strengths of downtown could all be for naught if shootings, harassment and other safety concerns drive people away. For residential, business and entertainment venues to thrive, all sections of downtown Minneapolis must be safe, welcoming places.