Increased aggression concerns Cedar-Riverside residents

Community members met with the police department to voice their concerns.

Increased aggression concerns Cedar-Riverside residents

Lolla Mohammed Nur

After a relatively quiet summer with little crime reported, there has been an observed increase in aggressive youth activity in the past month within the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood . Thirty five community members attended the neighborhoodâÄôs safety committee meeting at the Brian Coyle Community Center Tuesday night to voice their concerns to representatives of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). âÄúMost of the aggressors are young men in their early 20s who donâÄôt live in the neighborhood. TheyâÄôre inciting aggressive behavior in teenagers,âÄù West Bank Community Coalition President Ben Marcy said. Possible reasons for their aggression could be âÄúfeeling idle and having some tension over turf,âÄù he said. Brian Coyle Youth Program manager Abdirahman Mukhtar said although the neighborhood is generally safe, there have been several coordinated crimes in the past month, especially at night. âÄúBefore, there just used to be one-on-one fights, but now groups come to the neighborhood, terrorize it, and then leave,âÄù he said. This occurred almost every day for over a week, he said. Surveillance cameras have been installed at neighborhood hotspots along Cedar Avenue: 6th and 19th Avenues. According to crime statistics provided during the meeting, there have been 12 cases of larceny, four robberies and two aggravated assaults in the past month. There have been no incidents of homicide, rape, or arson in September, which is a significant improvement from last year. However, residents are concerned with the communityâÄôs reluctance to report crime and suspicious activity to the police, which they say is skewing crime data. âÄúIt gives a wrong picture of the neighborhood when people donâÄôt call 911,âÄùRusson Solomon , co-owner of the Red Sea restaurant, said. âÄúAt the same time, IâÄôm not trying to paint a bleak picture either. Things are better.âÄù He said residents are âÄúafraid of retaliation from the police. They donâÄôt trust the police âĦ itâÄôs because of cultural and language differences.âÄù âÄúWeâÄôre struggling because the new immigrant community doesnâÄôt fully understand the usage of 911,âÄù said Abdirizak Mahboub , a staff member of Cedar-RiversideâÄôs Neighborhood Revitalization Program . âÄúThere needs to be more effort to educate the community about [911âÄôs] effectiveness. We also need to educate the police force about us.âÄù There has been a stronger police presence in the area, including an additional shift car and special operations division officers, in response to complaints, first precinct inspector Kris Arneson said. Two beat officers have been assigned to patrol the neighborhood during the day and night beat officers will begin patrolling in December. Residents and the police department are optimistic that the constant presence of beat officers will provide consistency and stability for the community, which is typically uncomfortable with law enforcement. Other residents expressed concerns with the police not arriving upon receiving a 911 call. âÄúMost of us are long-time residents and we should get a response from the police when we say we see suspicious activity,âÄù 19th Avenue resident Tsegaye Shiberai said. âÄúThis is a dense area, itâÄôs close to downtown. That means thereâÄôs going to be more crimes, and the MPD should give more attention to us âĦ itâÄôs common sense.âÄù Because major crimes havenâÄôt been reported in the past few months, Lt. Derrick Barnes from first precinct said priority in the area is low. âÄúThe squeaky wheel gets the oil. We wonâÄôt solve problems until we work together, and we wonâÄôt come if you donâÄôt call,âÄù he said. Lt. Barnes also said officers may take longer to respond if theyâÄôre on call somewhere else. Residents were in agreement that increased security has successfully reduced violence in the immediate area, but aggressors are now being pushed into Riverside Park, which is poorly patrolled. âÄúItâÄôs one of the busiest parks in the Midwest. [CedarâÄôs] security is taking care of the park more than the park police are,âÄù Mukhtar said. Sgt. Brian Rodgers from the park police said most calls from the area are disturbance calls. âÄúPeople are concerned that crime is out of control there, but the calls donâÄôt support that. Most of what [the aggressors] are doing is probably harmless,âÄù he said. Rodgers also said only one car patrols the third precinctâÄôs 40 parks. âÄúIf they get by the park once a day theyâÄôre doing really good. We donâÄôt have resources to commit one car to this whole area âÄî there are no people to do it,âÄù he said. Abdullahi Farah , an organizer with the Somali Youth Network Council (SYNC) âÄî a violence prevention and awareness organization âÄî described complaints of police mistreatment of Somali youth. âÄúSome of these kids said they were arrested, taken downtown âĦ questioned and IDâÄôd for no reason âĦ They think thereâÄôs some beef, some conflict going on in this area versus other areas,âÄù Farah said. âÄúThe general feeling is, âÄòThe police are already angry at us, no matter if weâÄôre innocent or guilty,âÄôâÄù he said. âÄúEvery time the police show up they feel theyâÄôre going to be arrested.âÄù He also acknowledged the difficulty for officers to know whom to arrest. Arneson pointed out that police cars have GPS devices that can be tracked by the department and the police âÄúshould know this is happening. Some people arenâÄôt telling the whole truth here. You donâÄôt get arrested unless you commit a crime.âÄù Residents emphasized the importance of building relationships between the community and the police as a solution, which Arneson said is a goal for the MPD. Community elder Mohamoud Yunus advised the police department to approach the elderly because âÄúwe canâÄôt run, we canâÄôt shoot or harm anyone. You can come and confide in us, ask us whoâÄôs doing wrong and whatâÄôs happening.âÄù âÄúBe close to the community. DonâÄôt trust everyone, but be close to us,âÄù he said in Somali, translated in English afterward by resident Ahmed Hassan . Other suggested solutions included more outreach activities for Somali youth, trying to prevent chronic offenders from returning to the area and asking Augsburg College and Fairview Hospital on Riverside Avenue to enhance their security. Cedar-Riverside residents participate in regular safety walks, patrols and door knocking. They also participated in National Night Out . âÄúThis is all helping the community understand the importance of getting involved to improve safety,âÄù community organizer, Hani Mohamed , said. âÄúThe solution wonâÄôt come overnight. It takes time but weâÄôre going in the right direction.âÄù Minneapolis started an anonymous hotline in September as part of an initiative to prevent youth violence. Ward 2 councilman Cam Gordon said although heâÄôs concerned about crime and the general reluctance to report it, heâÄôs âÄúhopeful weâÄôll get more resources at the right place, at the right time.âÄù Compared to 2007, there has been a 30 percent reduction in violent crime arrests citywide this year and juvenile violence is down 37 percent.