Crime specialist eliminated by budget cuts

Cutting the second precinct specialist may cause issues for SECIA.

by Kaitlin Walker

University of Minnesota area neighborhoods are losing their link to Minneapolis police with looming cuts to the cityâÄôs budget.

Nick Juarez, the crime prevention specialist for the second precinct âÄî which includes the Southeast Como and Marcy-Holmes neighborhoods âÄî recently received his 60-day notice.

Juarez, along with three or four other CPSs will be let go contingent on Mayor R.T. RybakâÄôs proposed 2012 city budget.

As CPS, Juarez serves as a liaison responsible for providing the neighborhoods with up-to-date information on crime trends. For community organizations like the Southeast Como Improvement Association, he is a âÄútroubleshooterâÄù helping improve livability.

Southeast Como has one of the lowest rates of violent crimes in Minneapolis âÄî something the community attributes to JuarezâÄôs work with SECIAâÄôs safety committee.

In its latest newsletter, SECIA urged residents to take action by attending the 2012 City Budget Town Hall Meeting on November 9.

âÄúCPS Juarez is the link to the Minneapolis Police Department for our neighborhood, and without him, much of the progress weâÄôve made recently could be lost,âÄù the letter read.

âÄúIf you canâÄôt make the meeting, please consider writing Mayor R.T. Rybak about the priorities in his 2012 budget and how much losing our CPS for the east side would impact the community.âÄù

SECIAâÄôs safety committee, made up of just five people, works with residents to reduce and prevent crime in the neighborhood by raising awareness of crime-related issues in the area.

The committee regularly organizes safety walks âÄî tours of the neighborhood to check for possibly dangerous areas and to talk with residents about safety and concerns âÄî and also puts up fliers and goes door knocking.

âÄúAll we can do is just try to make the information accessible to as many people as possible,âÄù said Adam Arling, the committeeâÄôs chairman.

For this, Arling said the committee relies on fresh information from the Minneapolis Police Department. Every month, a committee member attends the monthly second precinct Public Advisory Committee meetings, or 2PAC. But most of the information comes from crime alerts, maps and statistics sent out by Juarez.

âÄúThey do their safety walks which helps to educate the people,âÄù Juarez said. âÄúThe biggest thing that people can do is communicate the information with each other.âÄù

Without the CPS, Juarez said it will be harder to get the information they need. The committee will have to rely on automated crime alerts and check crime maps and statistics online, he said.

âÄúItâÄôs going to make things a lot harder,âÄù said Jennifer Belsito, a University student and member of the committee.

Belsito joined the safety committee after her apartment at the student co-op was robbed last June.

âÄúI wanted to be more in the loop about what was going on as far as safety after my apartment got broken into,âÄù Belsito said. âÄúIt just seemed like it was a problem in this neighborhood.âÄù

The committee operates on a month-by-month basis, Belsito said. They look at what has happened over the month, what the problem was and what the committee can do to address it. Juarez provides constant feedback, she said.

âÄúHeâÄôs the go-to person for everyone in the neighborhood when something happens, or we have a question, or we want to know whatâÄôs going on with something,âÄù Belsito said.

Juarez is already spread thin. As the only CPS in the second precinct, he oversees 19 neighborhoods. He said he hasnâÄôt had much direct contact with Southeast Como this year, because he has to focus on the neighborhoods where crime is happening. Crime rates in Southeast Como are low and most crimes are property crimes, like burglary and theft, Juarez said.

âÄúIf crime is pretty minimal then some neighborhoods wonâÄôt get as much service right now, just because thereâÄôs not a whole lot happening as opposed to neighborhoods thatâÄôs having a lot of burglaries or a lot of robberies,âÄù Juarez said. âÄúRight now I just kind of go where the hot spots are.âÄù 

If Juarez and the others are let go, the remaining 10 specialists will be moved around to cover the second and fifth precincts, although it hasnâÄôt been determined how that will be done, Juarez said.

âÄúAs of now weâÄôre planning to shut down the safety unit here,âÄù Juarez said. âÄúWe wonâÄôt know until December when the budget is

voted on.âÄù