Meeting to discuss safety concerns

Sara Schweid

According to reports released this week, crime is increasing in Minneapolis, and Ward 3 City Council Member Diane Hofstede wants to do something about it.

Today, Hofstede, along with Ward 1 City Council Member Paul Ostrow and Minneapolis interim Police Chief Tim Dolan, will present Minneapolis’ Safe City Initiatives at a public safety meeting in the 2nd Precinct.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak unveiled the initiatives – which outlined the city’s proposed plan for dealing with the increased crime rate – during April 18’s State of the City address.

Ron Reier, public information officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, said the initiatives are a response to changing crime trends.

“They are the different mechanisms we’re using as crime has developed in different sections of the city,” he said.

Plans include increased officer visibility, improving the livability of neighborhoods, promoting a sense of safety and reducing crime.

Wendy Menken, board member of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said the initiatives are twofold.

“There’s the city version, and then the precinct tries to implement that plus do some more tailoring,” she said.

Some plans specific to the 2nd Precinct include reduction of prostitution, auto thefts and large parties, which all affect the livability of the area, according to the initiative.

Livability has been a concern for residents, Hofstede said.

“There is a general feeling of not being comfortable or safe in their neighborhoods and communities,” she said.

Ostrow said one way to help residents feel safer is to provide them with accurate information.

“I think for people to feel secure at all they really need to feel that their elected officials and police administration are fully informing them about what’s going on,” he said.

The meeting also waill give residents a chance to ask questions and share their thoughts on the current state of public safety in the 2nd Precinct, Ostrow said.

Hofstede said it’s important to hold meetings like this to make sure the public knows what is being done to protect them.

“It’s important to communicate to the community what the police have recommended, and to give the community a chance to respond and to report back on how we’re doing,” she said.

Michael Rainville, president of the St. Anthony West Neighborhood Organization, said he doesn’t think the city is doing very well.

“Our government is failing us on public safety,” he said.

Rainville is a fifth-generation resident of the east side of Minneapolis and has seen the crime trends shift in a discouraging direction, with increased numbers of rapes, murders and aggravated assaults.

He said he is concerned with the limited number of officers patrolling the neighborhood streets.

Reier acknowledged staffing continues to be a problem. This has forced the department to move some of its crime prevention officers to street patrol, eliminating some crime prevention programs, he said.

Rainville started a petition to encourage the city and the police department to set mandatory staffing numbers. The petition has been signed by 14 of the 16 precinct neighborhoods.

The Minneapolis Police Department does not have a mandatory number of officers to be on duty on a given day, said Reier.

Rainville said he hopes the staffing issue will be addressed at today’s meeting.

Hofstede and Ostrow also will announce what they plan to do in the City Council to help keep the precinct safe.

Ostrow and Hofstede said they expect a good turnout for the meeting. Hofstede attributed it to the community’s desire to be engaged.

“Sometimes when negative things happen, communities freeze,” she said. “But we have communities that are active and want to be part of the solution.”

The meeting will be from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the Northeast Park building, 1645 Pierce St. N.E.