BY STEPHANIE FOX
NENA’s annual Crime and Safety Meeting on July 16 brought residents from beyond the boundaries of the East Nokomis Neighborhood. People came from all over the city’s largest police precinct–the 3rd–arriving at the NENA office on a warm summer evening to hear from officials, to find out about criminal activity in South Minneapolis and to learn how to avoid being a victim of crime.
There to meet with their constituents were the two City Council members from the 11th and 12th Wards, Jeremy Schroeder and Andrew Johnson. Also attending were Sandra Filardo, the city’s assistant county attorney and police Lt. Gary Nelson.
The biggest problem in the East Nokomis and other far South Minneapolis neighborhoods are property crimes, especially burglaries from homes, garages and cars, said Nelson. In June alone, there were 38 of these burglaries reported.
“These are mostly preventable. The key is target hardening. Keep valuables locked up,” he said. Garages are a leading target for thieves.
“We get a lot of bikes stolen from garages. And lots of snow blowers and lawn mowers. So, chain your bike even if it’s in the garage. If you are mowing your lawn in the front, lock the garage doors in the back,” Nelson said. “Don’t just rely on a little doorknob lock. Put a deadbolt lock on your doors.”
“The very best deterrent is having a dog,” he said. “Very seldom will I go take a report where there is a dog. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little dog or a Great Dane. Burglars don’t want the confrontation.”
Most property crimes do not end with an arrest, with only 13 arrests for burglaries committed in the area during the first half of 2019. One of those arrests was made from a string of break-ins earlier this summer at the Creamery, El Burrito and the 5-8 Club. Nelson said the perpetrator was already under surveillance, with a police tracker on his vehicle. The businesses had videos of the crimes as well.
For crimes at homes and apartments, most often there is nothing the police can do after the fact, since there are few clues to follow, said Nelson. And, once a crime is reported, it often takes hours for the police to show up.
The problem of investigation and response times stems from a lack of police officers, Nelson said. “There are a lot of things going on in the city. We have a finite amount of resources. We have significant challenges in neighborhoods like Phillips, including opioid addiction, homelessness, sexual exploitation and livability issues. We’re busy with those. And in NENA, we have only one patrol car.”
The morning after the July 16th NENA meeting, local media was filled with stories about Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who was demanding that the city hire at least 400 more patrol officers in the next six years.
“We have been operating with the idea that 600 officers are adequate and it is not,” he told the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Adding 400 more patrol officers would mean that more cops could get out of their cars and not just spend their time racing from call to call, he said.
But, many on the City Council are not on board with adding more crime patrol officers, or any officers at all.
“What I hear from my constituents is that they need a quicker response time,” said Schroeder, representing the city’s 11th Ward. “We would like to see what we all can do as citizens to make things better. We all want better response times. People want a beat cop in their neighborhood or to add a police substation. We need more of a budget for cops, but these things might not happen. Officers are doing great work, but this is about getting better results.”
“Public service is a core service of any city,” said Johnson, who represents the 12th Ward. “When crime picks up, it might be only one or two individuals who can do a lot of damage. We need to work on relationships. And, the council can request meetings for information and do analysis so police can focus on what they need to do.”
But Johnson said he is convinced that more police could serve the area better if assigned to traffic enforcement, especially with roads and streets closed due to construction projects. “We can be more efficient with more traffic enforcement. There is next to none now.”
Tracy Van DeBoo, who lives in the Hale neighborhood, related how her home was broken into on June 25. “We had a deadbolt and an enhanced strike plate on our door. They broke in with a sledgehammer and stole a DSL camera with a memory card with pictures of all our kids. The police dusted for fingerprints but I haven’t heard back,” she said the next day.
“We can’t continue having just one squad car going from call to call,” she said. “I voted for Jeremy, but he has his own agenda and now, as far as this is concerned, I don’t think that the constituents are being served.”
Assistant County Attorney Sandra Filardo said that people could help get a larger police presence by reporting crimes. She hopes to encourage everyone to report any kind of crime, even the most minor, which she says can help determine the need for more police. “We take these reports and put resources where the hot spots are,” she said. “Resources are determined by how many crimes are reported and the monthly increases in crimes. Even if there is a car break-in and nothing was taken, report it.”
Jennifer Neale, the neighborhood’s crime prevention specialist with the Police Department, encourages residents and block clubs to schedule a free home security check from the Minneapolis Police Department. She can be reached at 612-673-2839.