Como group forms safety committee

Although violent crime is increasing, statistics show that overall crime in Como has decreased.

by Vadim Lavrusik

Fifteenth Avenue is the most popular route for students in the Southeast Como neighborhood to return home from campus. It’s also where most violent crimes in the area take place.

Almost all victims of assaults and robberies in the neighborhood have been students traveling along the corridor, said James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator for the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA).

According to crime statistics prepared by the Northeast Citizen Patrol, which collected statistics provided by the City of Minneapolis, violent crime in the Como neighborhood from January to October is up 12 percent from 2005, driven mostly by an increase in robberies and assaults.

SECIA is in the process of forming a safety committee to address the crime issues in the neighborhood. The group is scheduled to have its first meeting on January 22.

Although violent crime is increasing, statistics show overall crime in Como has decreased six percent since 2005. But that hasn’t reduced concerns about safety.

“The most disturbing has been assaults and the violent nature of some of the crime,” De Sota said. “The biggest issue is the crimes do seem to be becoming more violent.”

Currently, the association has a Safety and Livability committee, but the committee has focused on improving livability aspects in the neighborhood, De Sota said.

The new committee, he said, will focus on communication and education to help notify residents about crime alerts, statistics and tips to prevent crimes.

Shelley Leeson, co-director of the Northeast Citizen Patrol, said 15th Avenue Southeast could be a popular spot for criminals because of the dense traffic of students through the area.

“It boils down to a crime of opportunity, waiting for a time when there aren’t a lot of people around,” Leeson said.

De Sota said a lot of the most common crimes, such as theft from a vehicle, could be avoided if owners didn’t leave valuables in plain sight inside cars.

Jeremiah Peterson, Minnesota Student Association’s representative to SECIA and a landlord on 14th Avenue Southeast, has had one of his tenant’s cars broken into.

Another tenant was robbed at gun point in front of their house while installing a stereo inside a car.

Peterson, who will likely be a co-chairman of the Safety Committee, said the assaults and robberies occurring on 15th Avenue are surprising because of newly-added lighting on the street, which should discourage criminals.

“You wouldn’t think people get robbed right out there in the open, but apparently it happens,” he said.

Crime appears to migrate from other neighborhoods, he said.

“I know it’s not my neighbors robbing me,” he said.

Minneapolis police Lt. Greg Reinhardt said some of the crime increase is due to changes in housing patterns.

Reinhardt said a lot more students are renting instead of owning the houses, and patterns in housing bring in people from other neighborhoods, which sometimes tend to change the crime patterns.

“It’s still not north Minneapolis,” he said. “(Southeast Como) does have its share of crime, but it’s by far one of the safer areas in the city.”