A gunfight broke out in downtown Minneapolis early Monday morning, wounding six people and putting bullet holes in the windows of area businesses. Later in the day, city officials expressed outrage and dismay that the combatants, likely gang members, opened fire with no regard for bystanders, hundreds of video cameras and, oh yeah, a police station just a few feet away.
Maybe nobody has explained to these knuckleheads that downtown is filling up with happy, shiny new things and, as the public relations people like to say, “we don’t need this kind of publicity.” Maybe no one told the gunslingers that the site of the second shooting, the Minneapolis Central Library, was designed by César Pelli?
The slogan on the city’s seal is “En Avant,” which means “forward,” and the city is certainly heading that way with the fancy hotels, high-rise apartments and new restaurants. Shootouts like the one Monday, however, give the impression that the slogan should be changed to “Minneapolis: Shelter in Place.”
“This morning’s shootings in downtown Minneapolis are unacceptable. This is not who we are as a city,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said at a Monday news conference.
Well, it’s not who we are 24/7, but it’s part of who we are some days, usually around 2 a.m., when the bars close and people who don’t like each other meet for some gunplay. We are all of us, we are the good guys and we are the bad guys and it seems we have to live with ourselves.
The city is addressing the negative impression that shootings bring, with the mayor and Police Chief Janeé Harteau announcing Monday that they have a plan. It sounds like a good plan, a beautiful plan even. You will not believe how good of a plan this will be.
Over the years I have seen a lot of plans, and most of them were good, some of them were terrific. Those mayors and those chiefs moved along, and new mayors and new chiefs took over and brought their own plans, equally exceptional. Crime ebbed and flowed, moved around the cities, replaced old faces with new. Plans were praised and blamed, visitors to downtown from the suburbs contained their exposure to Sunday afternoons and we in the city learned our routes and our places and moved along, trying to enjoy the shiny new things.
It was less than a year ago that the MPD was planning to hold a news conference to address downtown crime — it had a plan — but it was interrupted by shootings.
A wise but world-weary homicide detective once told me that crime is like a balloon. You poke on one side and it bulges out the other side. Sounds about right.
As has always been the case, a small number of people are responsible for a large amount of the trouble. (Didn’t someone once call them “super predators?”) Mayor Hodges seems to want to bring in people who are causing most of the chaos, give them a chance and the resources to turn their lives around, then get tough if they don’t.
But nearly every mother of every victim of a shooting in this city uses the phrase that their dead son “was just beginning to turn his life around.” As a city, we seem forever one day and one bullet late.
Harteau pointed out that the five adults wounded Monday had between them 110 police contacts, including for robbery and assault, and they are only in their early 20s. That’s an average of 22 incidents per problematic adult, and so far no one in authority has been able to persuade them that their lives are going badly.
One victim was shot before, back in July. If getting shot twice in three months is not a deterrent to the life you are leading, I’d love to hear the sales pitch the city will give him to get him to change course.
It’s certainly true that crime, in general, is down from say a decade ago in most cities. In the First Precinct, downtown, the number of gunshot victims is down from last year. Violent crime in downtown is down 8 percent compared with this time last year, but still ahead of 2014 levels, so maybe the plans are working, just very slowly.
But shootings like those Monday morning are responsible for the horrified looks on the faces of the Downtown Council members.
For the record, I do not have a plan. America has a gun problem and a gang problem and a violence problem and an equity problem. I’ve got nothing.
So I welcome the city’s plan to finally end shootings and violence once and for all. I’m sure it will be unbelievable.
Follow Jon on Twitter: @jontevlin