Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau announced the department's summer crime-fighting strategy on Tuesday, which includes more officers on the street and the start-up of a North Side beat.
Speaking at the North Regional Library, Harteau said the new beat will be made up of 17 officers who will patrol the area on foot, bikes and squad cars. The officers will patrol mainly high-crime locations while checking on businesses and attending community meetings.
"We need to be proactive, as much as we can, be out there," she said. She said she plans to spend time on the street with patrol officers this summer.
Other parts of the summer initiative: keeping burglaries down, registering bikes and watching alleys to prevent metal theft.
Patrol officers will increase 25 percent in the downtown Warehouse District, which draws larger crowds in the summer to the bars along 1st and Hennepin Avenues. The police will focus on going after chronic offenders and reducing what Harteau called livability crimes, such as public drunkenness, panhandling and loitering.
The mounted horse patrol that's become synonymous with downtown bar-closing time will see new assignments this summer as well, with horse patrols going out to the neighborhoods. It's good for police visibility, Harteau said, and will help the department's broader goal of interacting with the public.
"People love to come up and talk to cops on horses," she said.
Trust is an issue
Harrison neighborhood resident Pamela McClain said she thought the extra police presence might deter crime the same way the security officers do at her apartment building. But she saw a downside to a routine police presence during everyday life.
"At times, though, it can borderline on feeling like you're being harassed," said McClain, giving the example of a birthday party for a 6-year-old relative at which a police car sat under her balcony. For the city's black population, including people like her, she said, there's a lot of history to overcome.
"I think to be totally honest with you, we don't trust 'em," she said.
At the news conference Tuesday, Chief Harteau said she wants people in some neighborhoods to meet police officers in situations other than an emergency.
"When the only way you see police is when they're arresting Mom or Dad or the uncle, or at the scene of the crime, or the murder where your relative was killed, you associate nothing good with police," she said.
A work in progress
Harteau said she's likely to drop by the North Regional Library this summer to meet with youth as part of that effort. "It's going to take time; it's not going to happen overnight."
Roberta Englund of the Folwell Neighborhood Association welcomed the walking patrols, as long as they're focused. "If they are targeted to already-at-risk blocks, it would be an exceptionally good program," she said, adding that she could use two officers each on three troublesome blocks in Folwell.
The beefed-up presence on the North Side and downtown follows a May 5 reshuffling within the department. Harteau disbanded the 17-officer Traffic Unit, and reassigned 28 officers from the Special Operations Division, which includes everything from the bomb-arson unit to special events to SWAT. All 45 officers affected by those two decisions were sent out to the precincts.
The traffic unit was responsible for about a third of drunken-driving arrests, with regular patrol officers handling the rest. The traffic duties will now rest with every officer.
"Traffic enforcement is not going away," said department spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington.
Harteau said the summer strategy will be fluid, with changes possible depending on how the ideas play out.