Downtown Minneapolis residents and visitors will see more officers patrolling on bicycle, horseback and in plainclothes this summer as part of the annual SafeZone initiative.
From June to August, Minneapolis police will partner with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and Metro Transit police to walk downtown beats in an effort to prevent crime and respond to public safety issues.
Volunteers from the Downtown Improvement District and youth outreach programs also will participate to provide more visibility for guests during the afternoon and evening hours through Labor Day.
The SafeZone cuts across the heart of downtown, from the Mississippi River to S. 12th Street and 4th Avenue S. to Hawthorne Avenue.
“We know that visibility equals livability,” said Police Chief Janeé Harteau. “We know that having that visible presence is key to not only preventing crime, but in helping people feel safe.”
The start of the patrols come just as Minneapolis police launch their summer crime strategy, focusing on north Minneapolis.
Instead of honing in on major crime hot spots, which sometimes span whole neighborhoods, police have started analyzing crime patterns on city blocks with a history of violence, and working with merchants and community leaders in those areas to tailor violence-fighting strategies to specific conditions.
Violent crime is up by 7.5 percent citywide this year following several brazen daytime shootings and homicides on the North Side, the most recent of which killed a 58-year-old woman struck by an errant bullet in her minivan.
During the first five months of the year, 126 people have been shot in Minneapolis — 99 of them on the North Side — compared with 72 during the same period last year. At the current pace, north Minneapolis will eclipse last year’s total of gunshot victims by late September. Aggravated assaults, which include shootings and are considered a key measure of a city’s safety, are up 11 percent across Minneapolis.
Police say most of the shootings are linked to a gang war between the North Side’s “High-End” and “Low-End” gang factions. Much of the violence, they say, stems from easy access to guns and young people’s willingness to use them in response to insults on social media.
“This summer we have seen an increase in gun violence that cannot be tolerated,” said Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. “SafeZone patrols utilize a partnership between multiple law enforcement agencies to put more officers on the street where they are needed most.”