Dear Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo:
I am writing you, and to the Third Precinct Inspector, to thank you for your efforts to make Minneapolis safer and more livable. I’m one of the thousands who feel you are doing as well as anyone could do given the understaffed force you lead.
I’m a retired state senator and representative — and, like you, a Roosevelt High grad — who is still in contact with scores of south Minneapolis constituents who are supporting an idea we hope will make your department more effective and our community safer.
We are wondering whether using “bait” goods such as bikes, computers, cellphones, briefcases, power tools, golf clubs and so on, equipped with GPS locaters and placed in susceptible places, could be used to curb crimes and help apprehend suspects? And would it be possible to have cameras nearby to record the crime?
What happens now is that hard-worked-for belongings, like tools for work or bikes needed to get there, are being stolen almost with impunity. They are taken from law-abiding citizens’ cars, garages, sheds, porches and businesses with a frequency that seems to be growing — so much so that a lot of people aren’t even bothering to report the crimes.
But some of these same citizens, and certainly others, would willingly volunteer their driveways, yards, cars, garages, sheds, porches and businesses as locations to place bait objects that could be tracked if stolen.
I talked to one small-business owner who has been broken into several times. I asked him if he thought about installing a camera. His reply was: “Why bother ... nothing ever happens.”
We know how thinly our current patrol officers are spread. We also know that every last one of them would make every effort to nab thieves if they just knew where they went, which GPS could tell them.
The MPD used to place bait cars in neighborhoods, and it worked. Crooks got caught or decided it wasn’t worth the risk to tamper with a car that might be connected to a police sting. The public loved it.
It would not have to cost much if the bait used was unclaimed property the city currently holds. The expense would be in the locaters indicating that a traceable item is on the move. A laptop or smartphone (hopefully in a squad car) would be needed to follow the stolen property.
Utilizing inexpensive wildlife-type cameras, which are known to work well in low light, could reduce video recording costs. Video evidence could be collected after the fact.
We in lower crime parts of town know and reluctantly accept that the MPD has to focus staffing in higher crime areas. Unfortunately for us, the crooks know it too, only better.
They know the risk of being caught goes down as violent crimes go up elsewhere. They also know that the risk of being in possession of stolen property is minimal if the crime is not reported, because the owner is still asleep or didn’t bother reporting because of the feeling that it won’t do any good.
Baited MPD-owned items would eliminate the need to show that items are stolen, because the property belongs to the police department. Video evidence bolsters the fact that those in possession are the actual thieves.
Our elected city officials don’t seem to place much importance on these types of crimes. But I know from a lifetime of living in south Minneapolis, and from my many years of legislative service, how much quality-of-life crimes matter to our law-abiding citizens and to the future of our neighborhoods.
Please help us.
Wes Skoglund, of Minneapolis, is a retired state legislator.