In fall 2017, the Editorial Board called attention to increased violent crime and other criminal activity in downtown Minneapolis.
Prompted by concerns voiced by residents, workers and business owners about shootings, robberies and livability offenses, we shared the worry that all of the new commercial and residential investment made downtown could be squandered if the city’s core was perceived as increasingly dangerous.
Fifteen months later, there’s a more positive trend to report. It’s commendable that a combination of business, community and law enforcement efforts have resulted in a significant decrease in downtown crime. And with the improved numbers, there’s an increased perception that downtown is a safer place to work, live and visit.
Crime has fallen by double-digit percentages across Minneapolis compared to last year, with downtown’s First Precinct among the most improved areas.
According to MPD, the precinct that includes downtown and Cedar-Riverside has seen a 24 percent drop in some serious crimes, including a nearly 50 percent drop in aggravated robberies. Overall, the downtown neighborhoods showed a 17 percent drop in serious crimes such as robbery, burglary and assault.
People from many sectors of the community now meet regularly with law enforcement and other representatives from the city. Several of them told an editorial writer that the improved communication and idea-sharing on safety have reduced crime rates and made downtown feel safer.
Inspector Eddie Frizell, who leads MPD’s First Precinct, cited a number of examples of changes made because of the improved collaboration. More cops are now walking the beat and getting to know business operators and the growing number of residents.
“Together, we’ve done a lot in the area of safety by environmental design,” Frizell told an editorial writer. “You don’t have to completely police your way out of the problems. Better lighting, fencing, [etc.] makes areas safer. … The drop in aggravated robberies means 190 fewer people were victims of serious crimes this year.”
Community groups such as MAD DADs, Mother’s Love and advocates for the homeless have also helped prevent crime and steer those at risk to offend or be victims to the services they need.
Keeping the streets open at bar-closing time has helped— closing them was originally intended to discourage drive-by shootings. The increased traffic and activity around attractions such as food trucks near entertainment venues, there’s been less harassment and criminal behavior.
Granted there were some additional factors that helped make downtown safer in 2018. Minneapolis successfully welcomed the Super Bowl in February along with significantly increased security for an event that attracted thousands of visitors.
The reopening of Nicollet Mall also helped take some of the transit pressure off Hennepin Avenue, where some of the criminal behavior had been worse. Lessons learned from that experience will help city officials plan how the upcoming Hennepin renovations should be done.
Criminal activity has not been eliminated downtown. As in most central cities, visitors, workers and residents still must be aware of their surroundings and take common-sense steps to be safe.
But for now the trends — especially in the perception of downtown safety — show the effectiveness of true public, private nonprofit partnership and cooperation. It may sound like a cliché, but sometimes bringing all the parties “to the table’’ — listening and collaborating — really can make a difference.