Como neighborhood takes steps to prevent crime

New programs are designed to keep student-heavy neighborhoods safe.

by McKenna Ewen

In response to high crime in the Southeast Como area last fall, neighborhood organizations and city officials are working to curb potential crime in the upcoming months.

Several groups of students were targeted in violent attacks in the neighborhood last fall. The city reported four assaults in September, but just three assaults since then.

James De Sota, neighborhood coordinator of the Southeast Como Improvement Association, said some of the focus has shifted away from the assaults last fall.

“Violent crime is still a concern, but it’s getting better,” he said. “At the same time, we’ve seen a gradual increase in burglaries and auto theft.”

To help target local crime, the neighborhood group formed a safety committee.

The new group gave people a clean slate to start addressing the problem.

Jeremiah Peterson, safety committee chairman and University student, said crime levels increase during fall and spring semesters, when most students are on campus.

“The majority of people that commit these crimes come from other areas,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the amount of violent crime has typically declined during the summer, but he expects that it will continue to increase when school is back in session if the neighborhood is not prepared.

As part of the preparation, Peterson and the safety committee formed a safety walking group that will take to the streets in July.

The group will go door-knocking and walk around the area to help keep community members informed about safety-related issues, Peterson said.

In addition, Ward 2 councilman Cam Gordon’s office recently hired three interns to start a block club.

The club will help unify the area and get neighbors to watch out for one another, Peterson said.

Carol Oosterhuis, a Precinct 2 crime prevention specialist, said the majority of burglaries could be resolved if residents simply locked their doors.

“When you have four or five people living in a house, a lot of times people aren’t locking their doors,” Oosterhuis said.

Jeremy Hanson, spokesman for Mayor R.T. Rybak, said the Minneapolis City Council recently approved $750,000 for added police officers throughout the city.

In addition, the city is addressing the problem by targeting youth crime specifically, Hanson said.

Minneapolis has a total of 750 programs and 2,000 jobs available for young adults. The city added 600 jobs this year, according to a press release from Rybak’s office.

Judith Kahn, executive director of the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, said these programs have a positive effect on youth.

“A quality program will go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of harmful behaviors,” Kahn said.

Such programs are not about pulling kids off the street, but rather engaging young people in things that are fun and enriching, she said.

“They may not know that they are gaining violence prevention strategies, but that will happen,” she said.