Safety walks in Prospect Park

Sam Darcy

The sound of gunshots can give anyone a sense of insecurity. But one University student hopes to turn insecurity into crime prevention in the Prospect Park neighborhood.

After hearing shots fired outside his room last year, health and wellness junior Jesse Thompson proposed organizing walking groups in Prospect Park.

Thompson, who is the Minnesota Student Association Prospect Park student representative, said the neighborhood board will discuss the walking groups at its membership meeting next week.

He said since becoming a neighborhood representative, robbery victims’ testimonials motivated him to finally take action.

Thompson said he hopes to gather groups of four to five people to patrol on nights that fit their schedules.

“The walking groups would take different routes each night and look for suspicious activity and report it to 911,” he said. The groups would also be encouraged to notify neighbors, but never to approach criminals, Thompson said.

Carol Oosterhuis, crime prevention specialist for the Minneapolis Police Department 2nd Precinct, said past walking groups have been helpful and successful.

“Their presence decreases opportunity for crime,” Oosterhuis said. “It’s good to have neighborhood walks; it’s healthy for them.”

Volunteer prevention walks already exist in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

Matt Hill, student liaison for the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said the citizens’ patrol was developed last spring.

“The patrols are a reflection of how the neighborhood came up with long-term solutions, not just a temporary Band-Aid,” Hill said.

But he admitted patrol partcipation has slowed down and is not as popular during fall semester as it is in spring.

Michael Wilde, director of student services and marketing for the Melrose in Prospect Park, said he thinks the walks might have a good impact, but getting students involved could be tough.

“The preference would be that everyone would do it out of the goodness of their heart,” Wilde said. “But there are so many more appealing things for students to do, whether it be to sleep, do homework or go out at night.”

He said he also worries that delayed police response times will put patrollers at risk and lessen the odds of an arrest. Wilde said that if the police would offer training to patrollers, everyone would be more careful.

But he said the visibility of the walking groups would be a major crime deterrent and he hopes to donate flashlights to volunteers.

Thompson said he’d like to see a mix of students and permanent Prospect Park residents participating, and for the walk to let students identify problem spots in the neighborhood.

“I feel that students should know their surroundings and neighbors,” he said. “It would be a great help to police to have more eyes and ears on the streets.”