There’s been a lot of debate recently about “low-level” criminal offenses, including talk about decriminalizing some offenses in Minneapolis. As someone who represents a large section of north Minneapolis, I believe what’s been missing in these conversations is how these crimes really do adversely affect our residents and neighborhoods.

Let me offer the perspective of someone whose neighborhoods are affected every day by crimes at both a low level and a high level, which all too often includes violence and gunshots. The fact is, even less-serious crimes have a real impact on people, and residents expect the law and law enforcement to do what they can to keep our neighborhoods safe.

If you’re a homeowner who has to deal with suspicious behavior in your back alley, or if your car is hit by an unlicensed, uninsured driver, you know these are real problems. They probably don’t feel like “low-level” crimes to you.

This is the reality many people in my ward face. Repealing or cutting back enforcement of these laws doesn’t make anyone safer. As a resident and an elected official, I want the law to be enforced when a crime is committed.

There’s an effort underway at the City Council to repeal lurking and spitting laws in the city. I’ve looked closely at the handful of lurking arrests that have been made in my ward in the last year or so, and it seems clear to me that police had probable cause to make the arrest in every case. Spitting is a disgusting habit and people should not have to be afraid to sit on bus benches or touch surfaces because people have used them to clear their nose or lungs.

Real people are helped when the law is enforced, because it improves the livability and safety of the place we call home.

I appreciate concerns that have been raised about equitable enforcement of our laws; that’s something we should look at more closely. But repealing laws that help our residents isn’t the solution.


Barbara Johnson is president of the Minneapolis City Council.