New crime statistics show violent crime is down in Minneapolis, hovering around its lowest levels in 30 years.
A collection of crimes that include homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault were down 5 percent through the first 11 months of 2014.
But a deeper look at the numbers paints a more troubling picture for communities that have struggled with stubbornly high violent crime numbers. Murders and assaults were down citywide, but rapes and robberies were up.
That is why residents in some of the most violent and crime-ravaged communities say they don’t feel much of a break in crime. Gunfire, death and mayhem loom as large as ever in these areas, and there is deep skepticism that the rise in gang- and drug-related crimes in other cities won’t soon visit their neighborhoods.
Many residents say they don’t feel as safe as they used to years ago. “Back then you didn’t have to worry about feeling safe,” said Joyce Yellowhammer, who works at the Upper Midwest American Indian Center. “Right now you have to lock our doors: We didn’t have to then.”
The organization’s office looks onto W. Broadway, the dividing line between the neighborhoods of Willard-Hay and Near-North to the south and Jordan and Hawthorne to the north. It is a violent patch of the city, long plagued by drugs and shootings.
An 18 percent drop over the previous year in the number of robberies in the four neighborhoods accounted for the majority of the decline in violent crime in those areas. In Hawthorne, violent crime reports were down 12 percent, Willard-Hay fell 15 percent, and Near-North was down 1 percent. The Jordan neighborhood saw 233 violent crimes through November, up from 230 from January 2013 to November 2013, the police data show.
Police officials plan to unveil their year-end crime data Thursday.
The city actually had a slight increase in its violent crime rate, which is based on cases per 100,000 residents. By that measure, the violent crime rate increased slightly from 929.5 to 934.5, according to the data. In fact, of all the violent crimes, only homicides saw a decline in 2014. Police logged 32 homicides for the year, the second-lowest total in at least 10 years.
The North Side experience
North Side residents have their own theories about the statistics. Some suggested the 2014 numbers were misleading, because they came out a year after a dramatic spike in crime.
Community leaders say credit belongs to the patchwork of North Side organizations working to address youth issues, said the Rev. Richard Howell, a pastor of Shiloh Temple International Ministries.
“It’s a combination of outreach and in-reach that has helped, not solved, this issue,” he said.
Police attributed the drop in crime to beefed-up patrols on the North Side in the summer. The initiative, known as Joint Enforcement Team, involved officers from the police department, State Patrol and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities say the low crime rates are a testament to the success of “broken window” policing, where officers relentlessly enforce smaller crimes to deter bigger ones. The strategy has endured scrutiny in the wake of fatal police confrontations with unarmed black men in New York and Ferguson, Mo., that stemmed from minor infractions.
“I can attribute it to the broken windows theory, the stuff they’re trying to discredit now,” said Lt. Mike Sauro, who until recently was assigned to the Fourth Precinct, which covers most of the North Side. “They whine about this broken windows theory now, because of Ferguson, but it works.”
And while shootings in the area were up for the year, police took more guns off the streets, he said.
“Regardless of what you think, every gun you take off the street is one that can’t be used to shoot someone,” Sauro said. “On the North Side, they’re not using them to hunt pheasants.”
Anthony Newby, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and a longtime North Side resident, said the increased police presence inflamed already strained relations with the area. His organization has had several high-profile run-ins with officers recently, like when NOC organizer Wintana Melekin was arrested while seeking signatures for a political petition.
Newby said he believes his people were targeted by the police “not because their behavior is different in this neighborhood than in other parts of the city, but because the police have a different relationship with this community.”
Howell said police face deep skepticism in the North Side neighborhoods, even as law enforcement leaders have tried to boost community relations.
“There’s still that fear of police and fear of the neighborhood. It may have declined some, but I think it’s still an undercurrent of some of the behavior that you’re seeing,” said Howell.
Dallas Drake, who heads the Center for Homicide Research, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization that tracks homicides in the state, has a different take.
“In north Minneapolis, you have a food desert. Food is hard to come by, you have one major grocery store,” Drake said. “What is the impact of hunger on aggression?”
Several residents expressed surprise at the drop in robberies in the four neighborhoods, from 358 in November 2013 to 295 last November.
“I don’t know what to make of the statistics,” Newby said. “I find north Minneapolis to be a place that I’ve chosen to raise my family, so we see a lot of value.”