Minneapolis’ precinct 2 to add new officers

Minneapolis’ small 2nd precinct is expected to gain six officers.

Kevin Behr

Minneapolis police will add six new officers over the next month to the area surrounding the University.

Another officer in Precinct 2, which encompasses Northeast and Southeast Minneapolis, will be promoted to sergeant to assist the investigation unit, said Bob Skomra, precinct commander.

He said the plan to add officers has been in the works since Tim Dolan became interim police chief in March.

The new recruits are nearing completion of their five-month field training, Skomra said, and he expects them all to pass and become full-fledged officers.

Precinct 2 employs the second smallest staff in the city, and that’s one reason for the addition.

“Other than the downtown precinct, we are the smallest precinct in the city,” he said. “If we’re down one person, that’s the equivalent of a 2 percent drop in our overall strength.”

But a loss of one officer in the other, larger precincts accounts for less than 1 percent of their total force, Skomra said.

“Because of our share of officers assigned here,” he said, “a couple officers can mean an acute shortage and the chief is well aware of that.”

In addition, the department hopes to hire 80 new officers next year, Skomra said. A percentage of those recruits will be assigned to Precinct 2, he said.

“We can’t make a solid estimate,” Skomra said. “They try to fill the classes, but stringent hiring practices make it more difficult.”

For example, recruits must be physically fit and pass background checks. Failure to fulfill either of these requirements eliminates a potential recruit.

A second sergeant will be added to the short-staffed investigation unit in the next six months, Skomra said. This will double the size of the unit, he said, which will help solve more crimes.

Steve Johnson, deputy chief of University police, said the additional officers will help students who live in off-campus areas. Response time will improve and police will be able to pay better attention to problems facing students, he said.

“We’ve been responding wherever we can help and will continue to work closely with Minneapolis,” he said. “If they have more resources, that will just make it easier for us to work with them.”

Skomra said an average of two extra officers per shift will be deployed to business areas in the precinct, including Dinkytown and Stadium Village.

“The University will notice a significant presence in the Dinkytown and Stadium Village areas,” he said. “That will be during the afternoons, when crime is at its highest.”

Ecology senior Natalie Ries said she is worried about crime where she lives in the Southeast Como neighborhood.

“Especially with Minneapolis, we need more (police),” Ries said. “It’s a large area with a lot of violent crime. I think there’s a need for them.”

Katie Saathoff, a genetics junior, said some of her friends going into law enforcement are afraid to work in a big city like Minneapolis.

“There’s the joke, ‘Murder-apolis,’ ” she said. “They would prefer to work in a small town.”

Despite the city’s former nickname, Saathoff said she feels safe in her neighborhood near Dinkytown. Adding more police is a good idea and will make the city safer, she said.

Taylor Veleke, a first-year engineering student, said he wasn’t really worried about crime until his friend visited him from Milwaukee recently. Someone broke into his friend’s Jeep and stole the CD player, Veleke said.

He said adding more police won’t necessarily solve the crime problem.

“You can have all the police you want, but stuff will still happen,” Veleke said.

Johnson said it takes more than just adding cops to combat crime in the community. Residents must work with police by reporting suspicious activity and crimes in progress, he said.

“(Police) can’t be everywhere to see what’s going on,” Johnson said. “The community has to help be the eyes and ears so the police can react to problems.”