Minneapolis officials were right to pull plug on under-21 events.
Residents and visitors to downtown Minneapolis can start feeling better about safety on the streets.
The city's recent efforts against crime have been spot-on, and the early results are positive. After a few consecutive weekends marred by gunfire earlier this summer, city officials reached verbal agreements with several clubs to stop hosting under-21 nights on Sundays. The clubs also will use "enhanced'' wristbands to identify young people at any events for underage crowds, and will employ more security and off-duty police officers.
In addition, the City Council is considering ordinances that would provide more options for placing conditions on business operators and license holders rather than relying on verbal agreements.
Elements of the city's plans may seem unfair to some clubgoers. The vast majority of those who go to under-21 clubs are there for the right reasons. They're young and on summer break, and they want to spend time with friends and enjoy themselves. Understandably, some are unhappy about being penalized when they've done nothing wrong. It's also true that asking club operators to be accountable for what happens outside their doors after closing time is a major step.
But here's the reality of the problem: Violent crime had risen a stunning 58 percent downtown over last year, and a key trouble spot is the area surrounding 4th Street and 1st Avenue N. Police reported that 80 percent of those crimes occurred between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., largely on Saturdays and Sundays.
When crime spikes where large numbers gather, preserving public safety has to take priority. That includes the safety of the young patrons who behave themselves at clubs. They, too, are in danger when criminals fire into crowds.
In addition to catching and punishing the bad actors, law-enforcement officials have to analyze which activities draw criminals. The patterns told the story in Minneapolis. It was clear that the perpetrators were downtown because people their age and music they like were concentrated in the Warehouse District.
The strategy the city and police are taking is comparable to targeting so-called "problem properties.'' If a specific address attracts criminal behavior, something must be done to protect the rights and safety of those around the property.
Changing what attracts the troublemakers has been successful in the past. That includes taking steps to close clubs such as Karma, where violence continued even after warnings and additional security.
The more recent moves also look promising. Last weekend, the combination of canceling the under-21 events and having a stronger police presence made a difference. On Monday morning, there were no headlines about a downtown shooting.
Reducing violent incidents in the heart of the city is crucial to maintaining an active, vibrant downtown. People need to feel confident that they can safely shop, do business, and go to bars, restaurants and sports events.
But the larger problem remains and must be addressed. Those same people who would fire guns in downtown crowds will likely pull triggers in other locations. Law enforcement and other city efforts should be coupled with preventive measures to reverse the attitude that says gunplay is OK.