Twin Cities safe, for now

Impending cuts to police force are still troubling.

Watching or reading news reports about violent incidents over the past weeks, one is led to believe the Twin Cities has become a haven for hoodlums. But to assert the Twin Cities is more dangerous than past years leaps from reality. Crime statistics prove otherwise.

Violent crimes including rape, robbery, aggravated assault and homicide have gone down over the past decade in St. Paul. Similarly, incidents of rape, robbery and aggravated assault have gone down in Minneapolis over the past decade. Crime in general is down 15 percent from last year in Minneapolis.

Granted, reports of three consecutive days of street brawls in St. Paul and shootings in downtown Minneapolis are troubling. For many University students the 2002 murder of Brandon Hall in the warehouse district remains fresh in their minds. Historically, the months with the highest incidents of violent crime are the summer months of June, July and August.

Other factors could play a role over the next few years. We must consider the impact of budget cuts on police departments. It will be interesting to see if the downward trend of violent crime continues as the Minneapolis Police Department will be forced to cut $12.5 million in spending by the year 2008.

According to a five-year plan focusing on innovative crime fighting and funding, the Minneapolis Police Department would likely lose and not replace 137 police officers. Combined with signs that the Twin Cities’ population is growing, these numbers should be of concern.

Numbers aside, the perception that the Twin Cities is less safe has driven some patrons and participants of night life to avoid some areas altogether or pay valet to avoid parking ramps. Blame inflammatory television reports or relegate the sense of fear to post-9/11 American paranoia, but despite fears, the Twin Cities is not as dangerous as many people think.

While budget cuts are a current reality for all levels of government, Minneapolis and St. Paul must be careful. Cuts to the police force could allow the current mistaken perception to become a future reality.