Our beloved city is in crisis. Crime keeps climbing with no end in sight. Aside from City Council President Lisa Bender, few of us feel safe.
Worse yet, our police chief says that with his department shrinking at an alarming rate, some 911 calls may soon need to go unanswered. We’re on our own. This borders on anarchy — Minneapolis meets “Mad Max.”
In response to an exasperating absence of leadership and urgency, a group of us — concerned residents, many of us crime victims — recently spoke to the Minneapolis City Council’s Public Health and Safety Committee. Our message: Enough is enough; do something now!
We’re not activists or government insiders, but with City Hall rudderless and adrift, someone has to step up and offer solutions. That’s what we did. We advocated for an immediate short-term surge of uniformed law enforcement on the streets — a focused 60-day mission we call Operation Safety Now.
Its goals: Restore calm and confidence, and buy time to put longer-term action plans in place. Here’s the three-step approach we’d deploy:
1. Convene leaders. We’d immediately host a leadership summit of city and state leaders — the mayor, police chief, Gov. Tim Walz, state Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, City Council members and others essential to the mission.
All these folks appear to be talking past each other — if they’re talking at all. Quick action is key, so we’d keep group size to an essential minimum.
2. Collaborate on a plan. We’d insist these leaders emerge with a 60-day emergency plan that puts more deterrence and protection on our streets. Our city needs a surge of uniformed law enforcement to back our depleted police. Every option should be on the table: Federal resources, part-time cops from neighboring cities, deeper involvement from partners like the Metropolitan Transit Police and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, plus limited, strategic use of the state National Guard.
Studies show that more visible law enforcement — including via surges — means less crime. The problem is our police force is maxed. The current practice of shutting some services and shifting those officers to patrols is a shell game that’s not sustainable. We need more cavalry. Our leaders need to be creative and aggressive in finding more ways to put feet on the streets.
3. Communicate regularly. The plan should be paired with a communications campaign to keep residents informed, similar to the state’s daily COVID updates. Residents should know on a regular basis what’s happening and how they can help. Let’s see “wanted” pictures of bad guys, and rewards for those whose tips get them off the streets. Let’s celebrate successes and see evidence of our taxpayer dollars at work.
At the core of the communications campaign should be a simple scorecard that tracks the mission’s performance. For example, the number of 911 calls and percent responded to on a timely basis, burglaries, carjackings, homicides and assaults. Just five or six key indicators that give a quick read on the state of safety in our community.
Every newscast, newspaper and news website should have this scorecard front-and-center to hold leaders accountable and reinforce the urgency of the situation.
Our leaders are running out of time. Something like this should have been on the drawing board weeks ago. If drastic action isn’t taken soon, we may see a swift exodus of families and businesses come next summer.
Teamwork across all levels of government is required. This is especially true of Bender’s City Council, which seems more hell-bent on “reimagining” public safety than facing the crisis at hand. Our house is burning and council members are focused on remodeling the basement.
Tone-deaf and shirking responsibility, they fail to grasp that their agenda will have rough going until and unless the fire is put out.
If you agree a game-changer is urgently needed, join us. Visit facebook.com/operationsafetynow. You’ll find e-mail addresses for decisionmakers, suggested messaging, media coverage of our efforts and background information.
This has gone on long enough. You can’t vote in these city elections until next year but you can demand action now.
Bill Rodriguez and Jim Galvan live in Minneapolis. This article was also submitted on behalf of Minneapolis residents John Bedard, Brandi Bennett, Melissa Ann Bloom, Brandon Burbach, Karen Forbes, Andrew Johnson, Rick Klosner, Elizabeth Linsay, Shannon McCormick, Holly Morral, Jake Reber, George Saad, Janet Skidmore and Mike Sward.