Downtown Minneapolis safety and crime became major issues in last year’s campaigns for city offices. And for good reason. Growing downtown safety problems were reported in news stories and examined by the Editorial Board in a series late last year.
So it’s encouraging to learn that in the first 10 weeks of 2018, violent crime downtown decreased by 33 percent compared to the same time period last year.
Nearly 100 violent crimes were reported during the period — including robberies, down from 71 to 26. Property crimes — defined as burglary, larceny, arson and car theft — declined about 14 percent, from 708 last year to 606.
While that’s positive news, it’s a short period of time. Police Department officials acknowledge that some of the progress can be attributed to the saturation of security before and during the Super Bowl. In addition, the city lived up to the big game’s “Bold North” theme, with ample cold and snow — both of which tend to reduce criminal activity.
Though the overall violent crime rate was down, serious assaults such as shootings and stabbings were up slightly from 49 to 55. They’re the kind of violent, personal injury offenses that people fear the most.
Some Warehouse District business owners worry that there will be an uptick in post-Super Bowl crime, especially as the weather gets warmer. They point to two recent incidents near bars in the area that left three men with gunshot wounds.
Still, newly elected Mayor Jacob Frey and MPD officials believe that changes they’ve made have improved downtown safety. New streetlamps, security cameras and fencing along the light rail line have helped, they say. And they think the emphasis on police community engagement — having more officers walking beats and getting to know their constituents — is making a difference.
Chief Medaria Arradondo, in remarks delivered at a Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce meeting earlier this month, said he’s been emphasizing building community partnerships since he took the department’s top job last summer. That outreach work includes downtown.
“I think you’re going to see a difference this summer,” Arradondo told the chamber group.
Clearly more needs to be done to bring crime rates down even further across Minneapolis. City officials should evaluate what went right during the first two-plus months of 2018 and find ways to build on those successes.
The Super Bowl-related focus on security is over, and soon temperatures will rise. The real test for MPD’s new public safety strategies will come this summer, especially in downtown Minneapolis.