U neighborhood safety concerns spark city meeting

Residents asked city leaders to provide better street lighting and conduct speedier repairs of burned-out lights.

by Stephanie Kudrle

Street lights are out or nonexistent, and residents in the University’s neighborhoods are frustrated.

At a Thursday night meeting, city, University and neighborhood association officials, along with crime prevention specialists, brainstormed ways to solve the city’s lighting problems.

Minneapolis City Council member Paul Zerby, 2nd Ward, who represents the University area, said he called the group together after hearing concerns about lighting and crimes from students and neighborhood associations.

Representatives from Minneapolis Public Works and Xcel Energy, the two agencies responsible for most of the city’s lights, heard complaints from residents who said it takes too long to get lights fixed and there are too many “black holes” along sidewalks.

The group discussed possible solutions, such as lower street lights for sidewalks and speeding up fixing burned-out lights.

University student Andrea Heinrichs told the group that young women in particular often feel unsafe walking near their houses and wants extra lights put in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

“Lights are high and don’t point at the sidewalks,” Heinrichs said. “Students are out late and it’s not safe.”

John Hotvet, public works traffic operations engineer, said it would be tough to get the City Council to approve additional lighting. He said the City Council would have to lift a current moratorium on petitions from neighborhoods to install lighting.

In addition, Hotvet said new light fixtures are expensive, and neighborhoods might have to pay the bill.

The meeting also addressed recent burglaries and thefts in University neighborhoods, and Heinrichs said lighting could make a difference.

Police crime prevention specialist Nicole Nelson said lights can help calm residents’ fear but do not necessarily prevent crime.

She said students should travel in groups and stay in high-activity areas if they are worried about safety.

“Lighting does help, but it’s not the answer to everything,” Nelson said.