A housekeeper arriving early to her shift in south Minneapolis was confronted by two hooded teenagers outside her driver’s side window.
One pointed a gun at her head, demanding that she get out, before firing three shots: two ricocheted off the window and a third struck her side-view mirror.
The woman threw her car into reverse, sending the teens fleeing in the stolen car they arrived in, the latest in a series of brazen attempted armed robberies and carjackings in a wave that is stretching across the city. Minneapolis residents are grappling with a triple-digit percentage increase in these crimes, and incidents occurring at all hours, including broad daylight.
“She was completely traumatized,” the woman’s employer, Kathy Higgins Victor, said of the Nov. 27 incident. “It’s just so bold.”
Over the past two months, Minneapolis police have logged more than 125 carjackings in the city, a troubling surge that authorities had largely linked to small groups of marauding teens. But an increasing number of adults have been arrested in recent weeks for the same crime.
Within a one-hour period Saturday morning, police reported three separate carjackings in southeast Minneapolis, including one where an elderly woman was struck on the head. Such attacks are up 537% this month when compared with last November.
“The numbers are staggering,” said police spokesman John Elder. “It defies all civility and any shred of common human decency.”
Police say suspects tend to approach victims on the street, sidewalk or parking lot — often while they’re distracted with routine tasks. A significant number of armed stickups have targeted seniors and unaccompanied women at their vehicles on Minneapolis’ South Side.
MPD didn’t specifically track this type of crime until Sept. 22 because they were so infrequent. Previous cases fell under the larger umbrella of robberies and auto theft. The agency created a new coding system after the summer months yielded an unusually high number of attacks.
A retroactive count by analysts determined that Minneapolis has seen at least 375 carjackings this year — including 17 last week. That overall tally is more than three times higher than 2019.
“These suspects have been known to ask for directions, then rob the victim of a purse, phone or car,” read an MPD crime alert issued last month in the Third Precinct. It advised residents to be aware of their surroundings and carry only essentials.
A city employee fell victim to south Minneapolis carjackers in September, authorities said. Police found her abandoned vehicle only after it later crashed and caught on fire.
Should citizens find themselves targeted, law enforcement advised that sometimes it’s better to hand over material goods rather than risk your own safety.
“People need to know what their abilities are,” Elder said. “A 74-year-old woman trying to duke it out with two 18-year-olds is not a great idea.”
The spree comes amid a nearly unprecedented spike in violent crime, particularly shootings, since the May 25 killing of George Floyd in police custody and the civil unrest that followed.
In November, the toll of people shot this year surpassed 500 in Minneapolis, the most in 15 years. Seventy-nine homicides is the highest count since the mid-1990s, an era when the city earned the grim moniker “Murderapolis.”
From her kitchen window, a Tangletown resident spotted a red sedan roll up on the 300 block of W. Elmwood Place, then lurch to a stop in the middle of the street.
Two boys, thought to be juveniles, got out of the car and approached a woman sitting in her SUV. A bystander captured a dramatic image of the suspects as one raised a gun toward her head. “Get out, get out!” they yelled, according to home surveillance audio obtained by the Star Tribune.
“Despite holding up photos of her young children and pleading for her life, two young men shot her car and the driver’s side window three times,” Higgins Victor recounted Tuesday in an e-mail to the Minneapolis City Council. “By the grace of God, she was not physically harmed.”
Shaken by the incident, neighbors have begun to mobilize on social media, encouraging one another to contact elected leaders before Wednesday night’s truth-in-taxation hearing.
More than 200 people have signed up to speak on the future of policing in the city. A new proposal by a trio of City Council members — including President Lisa Bender, Phillipe Cunningham and Steve Fletcher — would move roughly 5% from MPD to violence prevention, a mental health crisis team and other departments that could help process reports of property damage and parking violations. The change, they said, would reduce officers’ overall workloads and allow them to focus on violent crime.
On Monday, Mayor Jacob Frey held a news conference criticizing that plan as “irresponsible and untenable.” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo warned that the rise in crime wasn’t limited to specific areas.
“Crime is occurring, the shootings, the carjackings, the robberies. They are citywide, they are impacting everyone, and not just one constituency base and not just one neighborhood,” he said.
Some neighbors wondered if the community should invest in a license plate reader to record all incoming vehicle traffic, like Plymouth did last month to help curb mail theft. But that deterrent comes with a price tag of roughly $2,000 a year to operate.
Such attacks hit “too close to home,” said Rick Reuter, who was born and raised in south Minneapolis. “She was extremely lucky.”
His wife, Alicia Reuter, said the shooting makes her fearful about doing basic tasks like getting gas, even during the day.
The couple say they support police reform efforts, particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, but don’t believe fewer officers is the answer. Several like-minded neighbors said that politicization of the issue has stalled any real attempts to curb the violence.
“I am unsettled by the acceptance that carjacking and attempted murder is being normalized as a new way of life in our city,” Higgins Victor wrote. “Police are gone. Criminals are emboldened. City leaders are not working toward common goals.”