BY DORIS OVERBY
Our neighborhood block club has been celebrating National Night Out (NNO) and other events together for nearly 30 years.
What hasn’t changed
Since our block club was established in the early 1990s, some important things haven’t changed. We know our neighbors by their first names. We know the names of all the kids, dogs and cats. We pay attention, we know who’s home and who’s not. We know where the kids go to school. We know when a new baby is born. We say farewell when a neighbor moves on and we welcome new neighbors. We help each other.
We feel good about our neighborhood! We recognize being an “island” doesn’t help any of us feel safe or enhance our well-being. Our block club’s key to success is communication and helping each other.
South Minneapolis communities began to hold meetings years ago, many at Sibley Park, to discuss our concerns about crime. We were fortunate to be assigned the most remarkable, hard-working Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS), Karen Notsch.
Karen helped many South Minneapolis neighborhoods form block clubs and recruit leaders. She encouraged us and helped us understand that knowing our neighbors and having organized block clubs reduces crime. I’m very proud to say Standish was recognized as having one of the most organized block clubs in the city of Minneapolis.
For many years since, our block club has worked together – and we never stopped caring about each other.
What has changed
We no longer have a Crime Prevention Specialist.
Karen retired in December 2019. The city of Minneapolis (council members and mayor) made absolutely no effort to replace Karen. All they did was create yet another organization with a huge budget for salaries and operating costs – the Minneapolis Neighborhood and Community Relations Department (NCR).
Since CPS Karen Notsch retired and her role has not been filled, we no longer have a trusted ally to bring neighbors together to address safety concerns – so we are experiencing a significant gap in much-needed services. For example:
– NO direct contact to report concerns such as illegal garage repairs, party/drug houses, juvenile curfew violations, animal control, rental property and other housing violations, traffic control and illegal parking, garage burglaries, stolen cars, assaults at LRT stations, ripped off catalytic converters, stolen bicycles, sex workers, etc.
– NO one responsible for important email communications such as Crime Alerts (“Attention Residents”) or Weekly Crime Updates.
– NO point person who is aware of neighborhood issues to follow up on 311 calls from concerned residents.
– NO consistent staff person with a history of neighborhood issues who can brainstorm and help solve problems without delay. Lack of continuity has resulted in many inefficiencies.
Why is a CPS important? Why can’t we simply depend on free apps like Nextdoor, Citizen, Neighbors or the police department’s “Dashboard”?
– Crowdsourced apps are not reliable. Loud voices push misinformation and comments can quickly devolve. Moderators don’t do their jobs effectively. The police Dashboard is not user-friendly. Besides it being a highly unlikely resource for residents to check frequently, visitors are given data – NOT information. Accurate, timely and informative community alerts and updates is a job for a CPS. Other precinct sectors have a CPS; we need our vacant position filled ASAP.
– Funds are not a problem as Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) are in place. It should be noted, however, in the process of establishing the NCR, sufficient funds were not earmarked for all 12 CPS positions. Our CPS’s salary was allocated to NCR Crime Prevention Team Manager Jose Velez, but since our sector’s CPS has not materialized, it appears NCR is using CPS staff dollars to pay for a manager in NCR.
I have contacted Karen Moe, Deputy Director of NCR, about hiring a Crime Prevention Specialist for Standish. She referred me to Jose Velez. I emailed him about our need for a CPS, but as of this date he has not responded.
The city and county used to work together, but not now. We used to see police in the neighborhood, but not anymore. Council members don’t hear all the voices, only the ones making the most noise.
What needs to happen now
– We must work together – neighbors, crime prevention specialists, the police department, as well as businesses and nonprofit organizations – to continue to improve quality of life in our communities.
– City leaders must stop unhelpful rhetoric and step up to help us in a meaningful way.
– Reinvigorate partnerships that once existed between city and county officials, neighbors and neighborhood associations.
I encourage each of you to get involved where you live. Contact other block club leaders you know. Everything we do together makes a difference.
To start a block club, visit:
To view the Minneapolis Police Department Crime Dashboard, visit:
To learn more about National Night Out, visit: natw.org.