Minneapolis City Council member and mayoral candidate Jacob Frey released a plan Friday to curb downtown crime, with a focus on hiring more police officers to patrol the heart of the city.
The plan comes amid a mayoral race in which public safety has been a persistent issue. Frey's plan cites a dramatic rise in violent crime downtown, and places responsibility for the increase on Mayor Betsy Hodges.
"The significant uptick in violent crime, and specifically shootings, necessitates a real, concrete and specified plan," Frey said.
The 17-point "Eight-and-a-half block plan to combat downtown crime" focuses on the center of downtown. It outlines ideas for directing more law enforcement resources toward downtown safety, including putting more officers on smaller beats, better enforcing truancy and curfew laws, increasing surveillance and focusing downtown Community Response Team officers on street crimes and gang activities.
The plan also includes ideas for changes to the downtown environment, from converting vacant lots into green space to adding more lighting to staggering bar close times.
Downtown public safety has been an ongoing problem, frustrating to community members and city officials alike. The downtown business community has been particularly vocal, and has ongoing concerns.
"I think there's a feeling that more needs to be done," said Jonathan Weinhagen, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The election is obviously a hot topic of conversation every single day — it's part of every single conversation that I have. And the No. 1 thing that folks are talking about is downtown safety."
Late last year, downtown business owners sent a letter to Hodges demanding the city address downtown crime. A few months later, city, business and nonprofit leaders released a plan for dealing with crime on Hennepin Avenue during the spring and summer.
The plan included outreach to young people and homeless people along the corridor, as well as increased police and downtown ambassador presence.
In the introduction to his downtown safety strategy, Frey lobbed criticism at that plan and at Hodges, who he said did not include him or Council Member Lisa Goodman in the planning process.
"The Mayor chose to exclude from that work group the city council members who represent downtown," Frey's plan said. "The resulting plan is limited in scope to daytime safety issues and does not mention, let alone address, violent crimes like shootings, assaults, and robberies, most of which happen at night."
In a statement Friday, Hodges said Frey's plan "is a combination mostly of work I'm already leading, mixed up with failed tactics from the 1990s that Bob Kroll will love," referring to the police union president.
"Frey's plan would undermine new Chief [Medaria] Arradondo's real, forward-looking work to build public safety and community trust together," she said.
Other mayoral candidates were skeptical Friday that Frey's plan will be more effective than what's been done before.
Tom Hoch said he worked to address downtown safety as president and CEO of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, without involvement from Hodges or Frey. Frey's plan, he said, is too little, too late.
"This is just a patchwork of things thrown together to try to appease voters, or the downtown business community," Hoch said.
Civil rights attorney and former law professor Nekima Levy-Pounds and DFL state Rep. Ray Dehn raised concerns about the effects of putting more cops on downtown streets.
"We know that simply adding officers is not the solution; all it ever provides is a temporary band-aid that leads to a disproportionate amount of people of color and indigenous people having their lives consumed by the criminal justice system," Dehn said in a statement.
Levy-Pounds said she's concerned Frey's plan will lead to racial profiling and the over-criminalization of young people who come in contact with police downtown.
"We cannot incarcerate our way out of the problem," she said. "We have to get to the root."