Dinkytown business owners may help MPD with crime

by Elizabeth Smith

A Minneapolis Police Department service used to investigate crimes citywide might come to Dinkytown businesses.
 
At a meeting with Dinkytown business owners earlier this month, police introduced SafeLink, a computer program that registers private businesses’ security cameras with
 
MPD and provides investigators with a participating business owner’s contact information. Though MPD isn’t aware of any University of Minnesota-area businesses who have signed up yet, the program could save time for officers investigating a crime.
 
The free program shows law enforcement a satellite map with registered businesses, along with the name, phone number and email of each location’s owner to make
requesting footage easier and quicker, MPD Public Information Officer Scott Seroka said.
 
The department has been using the program, developed by Minneapolis-based surveillance company Securonet, since the fall of 2014, Seroka said, but officials are trying to expand it outside of downtown Minneapolis to other heavily populated areas, like Dinkytown and Uptown.
 
“These cameras are already there, so why not try and create the partnerships to use them?” he said.
 
Investigators could seek footage for crimes like assaults, shootings and disturbances, Seroka said, like the Dinkytown riots following the NCAA hockey tournament last year.
 
In areas where businesses aren’t registered for the service, he said investigators identify cameras near the crime scene that may have captured the incident. Officers then track down business owners who have the authority to give them access to the footage.
 
“All of that stuff takes a lot of time,” Seroka said. “When a crime happens, time is of the essence for our investigators to get that information.”
 
Although the system would give officers a map of camera locations, it does not give access to live camera feeds, and businesses would still have the choice whether or not to provide officers with the requested footage, he said.
 
Burrito Loco Bar and Grill owner Greg Pillsbury isn’t registered for the service, but he said if it saves him time, it would be worth looking into.
 
“I’ve always provided footage to the police when they’ve reached out,” Pillsbury said, “but in the past you’ve had to have certain types of cameras and that’s something we’ve struggled with.”
 
Updates are made to his security cameras every few years in order to meet the expectations of the department, Pillsbury said, but area businesses with cameras below a certain resolution offer footage too grainy to use as evidence.
 
Though Seroka said he hasn’t heard of any Dinkytown businesses signed up for SafeLink, he said officers from the 2nd Precinct  — which includes the University and its surrounding neighborhoods — have met with area business owners to discuss the steps they need to take to sign up.
 
Still, Blarney Pub and Grill owner Mike Mulrooney said businesses like his without street-facing cameras wouldn’t be eligible for SafeLink because officers are only looking for footage of crimes occurring in public areas rather than in private businesses. 
 
The service was used after fights broke out downtown on St. Patrick’s Day earlier this year.
 
Following the incident, police officers were able to access video footage from all 21 registered businesses in the vicinity, Seroka said, helping officers pinpoint those 
involved.