Crime prevention specialists prepare for spring crime spike

In 2012, crime near campus increased from the winter months to the spring.

Crime prevention specialists prepare for spring crime spike

Jake Stark

 

In Minneapolis, spring means more opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy warmer weather.

But it also means more crime.

In 2012, crime increased by more than 18 percent from the winter months to the spring in neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota. Thefts accounted for a large percentage of the increase.

Rising crime during spring is typical, said Minneapolis crime prevention specialist Nick Juarez. Juarez serves in the 2nd Precinct, which includes the University area.

Burglary and theft increase more than other crimes during spring, Juarez said, because residents tend to leave windows and doors open to let in the fresh air.

“We’ve been cooped up for five to six months of snow and cold,” he said. “Now, everybody opens up during spring time.”

The University area is a “hotspot” for these crimes because of its temporary population, Juarez said. New students come and go every year, so many are not properly educated in crime prevention strategies.

“It’s a constant message we have to get out,” he said.

In addition, warmer weather usually means more students will be out drinking and partying, especially during major campus events like Spring Jam, Juarez said.

Other parts of the city face similar problems, said Carla Nielson, one of three crime prevention specialists for the 1st Precinct.

For example, she said she sees more people walking or running outside with headphones on, not paying attention to their surroundings. Listening to music can make people easier targets for thefts or robberies.

“We let our guard down,” she said. “We’re decreasing the senses you’ve been given for your own personal defense.”

‘Our name is proactive’

Though police officers are responding to more calls in spring, crime prevention specialists say they are just as busy.

When crime increases, the specialists become more important as resources and organizers for residents, said Rowena Holmes, a 4th Precinct crime prevention specialist.

Crime prevention specialists primarily act as intermediaries between the police department and civilians, Holmes said. If police are persistently responding to certain areas or crimes, it’s the job of the specialists to address the issues with residents.

“We’re resources; we’re not regulators,” she said. “We have so many things at our disposal to help people get the results they want to have.”

Communication between police and specialists is critical to create a crime-free environment, said Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty. Since some people don’t like dealing with police officers, crime prevention specialists can become the voice of the department.

“They’re not in uniform,” he said. “I think that makes a lot of people more comfortable.”

Crime prevention specialists also often need to serve as educators, Juarez said. They need to teach civilians to be active in the community and become the “eyes and ears” of the police department.

Members of the police department hope to address the seasonal rise in crime through events like Police Week and National Night Out.

Both events, which take place in May and August, respectively, offer residents the chance to voice their concerns about criminal activity for spring and summer.

Holmes, Juarez and Nielson all said they want to use these opportunities to hear about neighborhood issues and hopefully come up with proactive solutions to crime.

“I think in the heart of every crime prevention specialist is a little bit of a social worker,” Holmes said, “Our name is proactive — crime prevention — we want to prevent any crime that is going to affect the areas we serve.”