Como neighborhood receives less funding for safety, extra police

Vadim Lavrusik

Although crime rates in the Southeast Como neighborhood are increasing, funds for increased police presence have been reduced.

On Oct. 10, the Southeast Como Improvement Association passed phase two of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, part of which will set aside more than $31,000 to improve safety and livability of the neighborhood during the next five years.

Phase one of the NRP funds began in 2000 and accounts for the first six years of the program. The program will move into phase two, which will fund various neighborhood improvements from 2007 through 2011.

Calder Hibbard, chairman of the NRP Phase Two Planning Committee for SECIA, said phase one, which began in 1999 and is set to expire at the end of this year, included about $2.9 million in funds.

Hibbard said phase two will see funding decrease 80 percent from phase one to $604,974.

This decrease in the general funding will result in less money for the extra police presence the association wants to keep in the neighborhood.

Phase one set aside approximately $29,000 for “cops on bikes,” while phase two will provide only $7,025 for increased police patrol.

NRP funds are provided by the city, which receives about $20 million in funding each year through revenue from particular property taxes in Minneapolis.

Hibbard said the reason for the decrease in funding is unclear, but he assumed it is because the revenue from the property taxes the city collects has decreased.

“Because we are working with less funding we aren’t going to be able to fund as much as we would hope to,” Hibbard said.

He said each category from phase one has had its funding reduced.

A planning committee determined the funding breakdown after receiving feedback from residents of the Southeast Como neighborhood, including students, he said.

He said “safety and livability” was a big concern of the neighbors and students in the area. Safety and Livability had its own sub-committee for planning strategies of phase two.

“It was a big part of our planning,” Hibbard said. “People on the committee looked at phase one and determined what worked and what didn’t work and made decisions on what to include in phase two.”

Besides police, the neighborhood will use the funding to increase neighborhood watch participation and add more lighting around the area.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness said it’s typical for neighborhoods to use their funds to hire extra police.

Neighborhoods usually do this because the “day-to-day” police patrol the city provides is not sufficient, he said.

Hestness said some neighborhoods hire police on bikes to increase presence while others want help with their burglary and assault problems.

The officers who take part in the extra police patrol for the particular neighborhood are working overtime, he said.

Hestness said Southeast Como will work with the Minneapolis Police Department, and their funding will pay for an officer’s overtime, which is around $50 an hour.

“If they do want to work with us, we would have to develop some sort of plan,” he said. “We are certainly empowered to help them.”

Hestness said southeast Minneapolis is struggling because police staffing numbers in the city have been reduced from more than 800 to

around 700. This summer, many police officers were paid by the city to work overtime because of the shortage, he said.

Carsten Slostad, neighborhood specialist at NRP, said the phase two action plan will now go to the NRP policy board for approval in the next few weeks.

“We haven’t had any that have not been approved,” Slostad said.

He said he expects Southeast Como’s phase two plan to pass at the policy board. Then it will go to the city council for approval.

“It needs to comply with the requirements of the program to pass, which I am sure it does,” he said. “I would venture to guess that it will go to the city council on the 17th of November.”