Poor lighting raises concerns

Stephanie Kudrle

University student Andrea Heinreichs said she does not feel safe walking to the gas station one block from her sorority house in the dark.

Heinreichs said poor lighting makes the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood unsafe, so she lobbied 2nd Ward Minneapolis City Council member Paul Zerby and the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association.

Now Zerby, who represents the University area, is taking action.

He will meet with Public Works officials, University officials, neighborhood associations and residents at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 in the municipal building at Van Cleve Park.

He hopes to highlight the biggest safety problems and find solutions.

“Safety is an issue,” Zerby said. “There have been some incidents where more lights would have helped.”

Heinreichs is the vice president of risk management on Panhellenic Council – the governing body for University sororities – and said her organization wants to make the area safer for students.

“The lights need to be fixed,” Heinreichs said. “It’s very dark and not safe for pedestrians.”

She said young women in particular often feel unsafe after dark, and recent assaults and on-campus crime have added to the problem.

Ardes Johnson, chairwoman of the livability committee for the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said she also saw a problem.

“There’s definitely a lack of lighting,” Johnson said. “It’s very dangerous.”

Zerby said he gave a list of safety issues and potential new lighting locations to the Minneapolis Public Works last week and expects to meet with the department soon.

Zerby said if the city does not fund new lights, residents can petition to use neighborhood association money.

Zerby said the city rarely funds proposals for more lighting, so he is looking for other solutions to the problem.

Heinreichs said sorority houses had experienced several car and house break-ins, and she thinks more lights could help.

But Nicole Nelson, 2nd Precinct crime prevention specialist, said most break-ins occur during the day when residents are not at home. The 2nd Precinct is responsible for patrolling most University neighborhoods.

Nelson also said the city has standards for street lights, but students have to speak with landlords if the problem is individual house lighting.

Johnson said Marcy-Holmes properties meet all city requirements for lighting. But she said the needs for her neighborhood are different because of the large student population.

“In this neighborhood, the standards for the rest of the city are not enough,” she said. “There are many pedestrians and bikers in this area at night.”

Heinrichs also said individual house lighting is not the problem, and that the city must act.

“Most sorority houses already have motion lights and lights outside the house,” she said. “They tell us to park our cars under street lights, but there aren’t very many street lights.”

Johnson said the association discussed lighting issues in the past but has not installed new fixtures.

When a similar issue came up in the Prospect Park neighborhood a few years ago, residents voted to finance new lights, Zerby said. He said residents paid about $5,000 for the new lights.