While violent crime has receded in Minneapolis in recent weeks, the number of shootings and other violent episodes has remained stubbornly high in certain pockets of the city.
Homicides have dropped by about 40 percent in 2016, compared to this time last year, with 17 slayings reported as of July 25, the last date for which numbers had been tallied.
Still, in the wake of the recent unsolved drive-by shooting deaths of a grandmother and a 2-year-old boy in north Minneapolis, city officials remain concerned.
So far this year, north Minneapolis has recorded 957 violent crimes — defined as homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery — compared to 862 a year ago, an 11 percent increase. The Fifth Precinct, which covers the normally quiet neighborhoods of southwest Minneapolis, has seen a 13 percent jump in serious crimes, while violent crime has remained more or less stable in the First, Second and Third precincts.
Deputy Police Chief Bruce Folkens said at a recent meeting of the Minneapolis City Council Public Safety Committee that police were starting to put a dent in the crime problem, thanks in some part to extra patrols in the Fourth Precinct, where much of the violence is concentrated. He said that he and other police commanders hold weekly meetings to discuss citywide crime trends and strategy.
"We're seeing a definite turn; hopefully we can sustain that turn," he said, pointing to a recent decline in crime figures throughout the city.
But numbers don't always tell the whole story, Council President Barbara Johnson reminded Folkens, pointing out that violent crime in north Minneapolis was still up 11 percent.
"This is just really intolerable for citizens, and I think people in north Minneapolis are becoming numb to what's going on; you know, you hear shots fired so many times you really don't even pay attention to it anymore," said Johnson, whose ward includes part of the North Side.
Johnson said she had heard from constituents who complained that gang shootings in their communities were commonplace, despite official assurances that the level of serious crime remains historically low.
"I don't see it. I don't see it getting better, I really don't," she said. "We are under siege. These people that are shooting at each other are endangering all of us, all of us. You can't go to the grocery store without thinking about it. Drive down Broadway, put yourself at risk."
Johnson recalled a recent meeting with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison at the Lowry Café, pointing out that "we were 20 feet away" from where 2-year-old Le'Vonte King Jason Jones was killed in a daytime shooting that also wounded his 15-month-old sister. In late May, Birdell Beeks, 58, was driving in north Minneapolis with her granddaughter when she was struck by a stray bullet.
A suspect was arrested on suspicion of murder in the Jones case, but prosecutors declined to charge the man, citing lack of evidence.
The gunfire also hit a nearby hardware store, though no one inside was injured.
"How's anybody supposed to run a business when this is going on?" Johnson said. "It's ridiculous."
"Council president, I agree with you, I totally agree with you," Folkens said, pointing out that the department plans to resuscitate the CeaseFire program, based on a model in Chicago that employs former gang members to defuse gang violence. Any resource at their disposal will be used, he said.
"There's great minds and potential in people caught up" in the violence, he said.