Following a year of heightened crime, Marcy-Holmes looks forward

Lighting and communication remain major concerns for the community.

Vic Thorstenson, president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, speaks at an inaugural safety committee meeting at First Congregational Church on Monday, Nov. 11. 

Parker Johnson

Vic Thorstenson, president of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, speaks at an inaugural safety committee meeting at First Congregational Church on Monday, Nov. 11. 

by J.D. Duggan

Tonya Green plans her evenings carefully. She rushes home from work when she clocks out late and checks in with her roommates to make sure everybody is safe.

Green, a third-year neuroscience major, moved into Marcy-Holmes last September with four other women. Recent high-profile incidents have not only inspired Green to take more care when walking home — they have prompted the re-establishment of a new neighborhood committee.

Four homicides and an increase in violent crime in the neighborhood last year have sparked neighbors to act. Along with the committee, the community is trying to address issues like poor lighting and unclear communication while urging residents to advocate for their own safety.

“While these incidents were anomalies and rare occurrences, these horrible crimes shocked the community and the police creating much concern and fear in the hearts and minds of the citizens,” said Minneapolis Police Department Inspector Todd Loining in an email.

Concerns came to a head after one of the homicides, and the organization saw an immediate need to reignite the committee. 

Ben McKibben, a University alumnus with a double major in criminology and political science, took the helm as the chair of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association’s public safety and infrastructure committee last week. McKibben hopes the committee will hold its first meeting in February.

“We appreciate the efforts that are being taken by law enforcement officials, and we definitely support them 100 percent,” McKibben said. “But, you know, there are some things that we feel that we could possibly do on our own.”

He hopes to promote crime prevention tactics — locking the door, not posting your vacation days online — to the broader community. McKibben also wants to strengthen relations with local law enforcement.

McKibben is still mulling over ideas for initiatives the group could undertake. Conversations so far have especially revolved around street lighting and community engagement.

Marcy-Holmes residents have pointed to lighting as a perennial concern, said MHNA President Vic Thorstenson, who first got involved with the neighborhood in the early ’80s. The recent incidents have amplified this conversation.

“It’s actually kind of obvious, but sometimes obvious isn’t fun,” Thorstenson said. “We’re trying to, you know, do what the what a group of neighbors can do effectively — and lighting is kind of an obvious one.”

Many of the lights in the area illuminate the street but cast shadows onto sidewalks. MHNA hopes to approach the city and county about improved sidewalk illumination. Thorstenson is pushing residents to turn on their porch lights.

McKibben said board members have brainstormed the idea of funding new lamp posts and seeking subsidies for homeowners to purchase motion-sensing lights.

Thorstenson said building awareness can also be difficult. Only University community members automatically receive SAFE-U alerts. On the other hand, students may not be signed up for Minneapolis Police Department crime alerts. 

Green, along with many other students, isn’t familiar with the neighborhood organization or some of the city’s crime work.

Although there has been an increase in University SAFE-U alerts, the college has no obligation to notify community members when a crime happens outside of designated boundaries.

“Unless you really search for like, the crime itself, you don’t get updates about it,” said Green, who lives west of 35W in the area where many of the crimes have recently occurred. “For example, when a person died about two blocks away, they were stabbed, and the only way we found out about it was through a Facebook post.”

Non-University residents often hear about University alerts secondhand. “There’s going to be a delay in doing that,” Thorstenson said.