Day-to-day public safety is urgent, too

  • Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2014 - 6:06 PM

Attack North Side violence as if it threatened the All-Star Game.

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Photo: Joey McLeister • Star Tribune,

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If you ventured downtown last week for the All-Star Game festivities, you couldn’t help noticing the strong police presence. On most blocks in the heart of downtown, pairs or trios of officers from several jurisdictions strolled the sidewalks, keeping watchful eyes on the crowds. And it worked. There were no disturbances to speak of as Minneapolis showed its hospitality.

But just days before the big weekend, a few miles away, some North Side residents were holding vigils, tending to the injured and mourning losses — all due to senseless violence.

Last week, three women were shot and seriously hurt; over the July 4th weekend, two were killed and three seriously injured by gunfire. At press time Friday, police reported that 17 homicides had occurred in Minneapolis this year, 12 of them on the North Side.

The incidents were part of an uptick in violence in the area, where police have reported 413 aggravated assaults in 2014 — a 13 percent increase from last year.

The contrasts invite the question: If an oversized police presence served the All-Star crowds well, could saturation patrols by law enforcers tamp down violence in city neighborhoods?

Admittedly, the people and situations are different. It is one thing to call in extra troops for a few days in a commercial and entertainment district — quite another to sustain a beefed-up force for weeks or months on end in a residential area.

Still, Minneapolis police officials say they have increased police presence on the North Side for the summer, with the help of officers from Hennepin County, the Park Police and Metro Transit. At peak times when violence occurs, nights and weekends, police officials say there are as many as 24 officers on patrol duty on the North Side. And they have beefed up their presence in what they call crime “hot spots’’ in the neighborhoods.

As demonstrated during the city’s big baseball fest, people feel safer and tend to behave themselves when they see duos or trios of cops every few minutes walking among them. So the Police Department should continue to make itself visible in those “hot spots.” And to get ahead of problems, officers should get to know the communities and talk with neighbors as they patrol to build trust.

Police presence matters. Yet, as Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and other city and community leaders rightly point out, law enforcement alone cannot stop the violence.

The city also has youth initiatives such as pop-up parks, jobs programs, and preschool and family visits through the Health Department. These are useful preventive measures — intended to head off the problems that lead to trouble.

And there are also things the neighborhood, business and nonprofit communities can do. The friends, relatives and neighbors of those who perpetrate violence must speak up and not let assailants or killers get away with those crimes. Community members also can spread the word and channel others into alternatives to criminal activity.

Help a young person connect with a constructive summer program. Be a mentor. Refer someone to free or low-cost counseling. Provide jobs for young people or for adults who may have been incarcerated and need an opportunity to turn their lives around.

Minneapolis is not alone in experiencing waves of inner-city violence this year. Chicago, New York and other larger cities are also struggling with increases in crime.

To keep things in perspective, with homicides numbering in the teens, Minneapolis isn’t even close to its record-high level of mayhem, with nearly 100 homicides during just one year back in the 1990s.

Still, for this metro area, the recent rash of violence is troubling; it demands attention and action. The city and community must bring their resources and best strategies to bear.

Residents of the North Side deserve to feel just as safe on their neighborhood streets as fans did downtown during All-Star Week.

  • TWO RESPONSES TO RECENT EVENTS

    “People have died recently on the North Side in what should have been minor disputes. … They turned to firearms and other weapons to resolve conflicts. … Our message is to stop and take a breath and think before doing something you can’t take back.’’

    Minneapolis police inspector MIKE KJOS, of the Fourth Precinct on the city’s North Side.

    • • •

    “It’s their job to put them in jail. It’s our job to tell them who to put in jail.”

    V.J. SMITH, president of MAD DADS, at a vigil where he said the police need the community’s help to identify killers and those providing guns to young people.

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