Residents, businesses see crime increase around U

Koran Addo

About a year and a half ago, private security firm owner Tom Mudek was on a routine patrol on the West Bank when he was attacked by a group of men.

As his wife looked on, the men threw Mudek to the ground and kicked him repeatedly, cutting his head open.

While Mudek’s story is extreme, crime has become an increasing problem for residents and business owners in two University neighborhoods.

Understanding that police cannot be everywhere at one time, neighborhood groups have turned to private security firms to help keep their neighborhoods safe and they are seeing positive results.

The Cedar-Riverside Business Association contracted Mudek’s security company, South Cross Services, last November after the city denied a request for a nighttime police officer.

Although Mudek has been the victim of several assaults since he started working in the neighborhood, the business association officials said they have seen drastic improvements in the safety of the neighborhood since his company started their monitoring services.

“I’ve seen it all,” Mudek said. “From stealing cars to prostitution; but the people in the neighborhood know me now, and they clear out when they see me coming.”

Dan Prozinski, chairman of the business association, said business owners decided enough was enough.

“The general consensus was that crime was increasing and it was our desire to change that,” Prozinski said.

While the Cedar-Riverside area battles muggings and assaults, vandalism is hitting Dinkytown businesses hard.

Business owners said etching messages on windows with acid and graffiti spray painted on doorways are main concerns.

Skott Johnson, owner of the copy and print center Autographics, said Dinkytown business owners hired Millennium Security last fall to patrol their neighborhood and end the excessive vandalism.

“We had no clue who was responsible, so we hired additional security to put an end to it,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who is also president of the Dinkytown Business Association, said he and other Dinkytown business owners cannot expect police to “baby-sit” their properties at night and on the weekends, so they hired a company that will.

Rich Cox, operating manager of Millennium Security, said his company and others like it are helpful because they provide more constant visual presence than the police.

While private security firms rely on their marked cars and uniformed guards as a deterrent to would-be vandals, they leave emergencies in the hands of University and Minneapolis police.

“We make our presence known at all of the local watering holes, but we also utilize our connections with (police) in case of a struggle or a fight,” Cox said.

Assistant vice president for Public Safety Greg Hestness said while not a cure-all, hiring private security firms does help keep neighborhoods safer.

“But collaboration between police and private security exponentially increases the chances of deterrence or apprehension,” Hestness said.