Dinkytown security plan moves forward

The plan would include hiring four off-duty cops on busy weekends.

by Marion Renault

Plans to improve late-night security moved forward last week at a Dinkytown Business Association meeting and will be finalized by the end of next week.

Skott Johnson, DBA president, presented a plan he and other business owners have been working on since last fall, when the former Second Precinct Inspector Bryan Schafer asked Dinkytown businesses to hire off-duty cops to patrol the area.

The details of the plan include hiring four additional police officers during 14 nights pinpointed as high-traffic and high-incident occasions. Among them are Spring Jam weekend and Gophers sporting events against the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Individual businesses would finance the police presence for a monthly fee of about $50, Johnson said, although this amount decreases with the participation of more businesses.

As of Tuesday, 11 businesses had committed to the plan; Johnson said he’s hoping to get at least nine more by the end of the week.

If the DBA fails to submit its proposal along with payment details, the city’s business licensing department would take over the process of improving late-night security in the area.

Johnson said it’s a necessary improvement for Dinkytown’s continued growth.

“To be a destination area, we have to be a safe area,” he said.

Mark Lo Galbo, a public health graduate student said he’s never felt unsafe walking around at night. Beyond receiving occasional crime alerts on his email, he said, he has never had any personal experience with crime in Dinkytown.

But Emily Hoyt, an art history senior who lives in Dinkytown, said sometimes people get so loud outside her house that she considers calling the police. She’s also had two computers stolen from her home on separate occasions, one of which was a forced entry.

Biology junior Mitch Gmyrek said he’s also experienced a minor theft in his Dinkytown home, but still feels safe there regardless.

“[Stuff like that] puts you a little on edge,” he said, “but it doesn’t really make us feel unsafe.”

Late-night business’ busyness

The issue being addressed, Johnson said, isn’t crime like muggings or violence but rather crowd control and vandalism prevention.

Greg Pillsbury, owner of Burrito Loco restaurant, said for the 20 years he’s been on campus, there hasn’t been a change in the type of crime but rather an increase of people in the area.

“It’s all the same old stuff you see on a college campus,” Pillsbury said. “But there’s a lot more people there now. Light rail pushed people over, all the apartment buildings going up put in more residents — it just became a more popular area.”

And if the area is only poised to grow further, he said, “we’d rather not be late to the party” in terms of preventing crime.

Johnson said he hopes the presence of police officers will be enough to deter potential criminals.

That sort of prevention is immensely valuable for he Book House, said employee Ryan Hinderaker. While the shop hasn’t had incidents in years, he said, it has had issues with graffiti and vandalism in the past.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he said.

Besides, Pillsbury said, Minneapolis police have more pressing issues than college rowdiness — by hiring its own off-duty cops, on-duty Minneapolis police officers are able to respond to more serious crimes.

Johnson said he wants the plan to be ready and in place by spring and ultimately hopes to review it and adjust police presence in Dinkytown based on the security plan’s effectiveness.

“We’ll work with the inspector to see if she feels it’s a success or if we need to give it more oomph,” Johnson said.

Pillsbury said gaining that notoriety for being unsafe at night could be dangerous for all Dinkytown businesses.

“Once you get a bad reputation, it’s hard to get your good reputation back,” he said. “It’s much easier to keep a good reputation.”

‘A rising tide lifts all boats’

While the late-night businesses draw the big crowds to Dinkytown, the success of the plan depends on and will be felt by all Dinkytown business, said Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill.

“If we can share it within the community,” Mulrooney said, “everybody’s going to reap the benefits.”

Avoiding broken windows and vandalism as well as keeping day-time employees safe on their way home is something all business owners should pitch in for, he said.

Pillsbury, though, sees a mutual benefit between day-time and late-night businesses in the plan.

“A rising tides lifts all boats,” he said.