Dinkytown burglaries worry neighborhood business owners

Camera systems are no longer enough to deter crime or help police apprehend suspects.

Kelly Gulbrandson

With a rash of burglaries and vandalism on campus recently, some business owners are worried about protecting their stores.

Although many have alarms or surveillance cameras installed, they’re not always effective in deterring or investigating a crime.

While cameras can record suspects committing crimes, Dinkytown Business Association president Skott Johnson said Minneapolis police, who work on many of the cases, are not always responsive to video surveillance of a robbery.

“I have heard police officers say the quality of the video surveillance is not good enough,” Johnson said.

Carol Oosterhuis, 2nd precinct crime prevention specialist for Minneapolis police, said if there is a quality video image of a robbery suspect, the investigator looks at the tape.

“We, however, don’t want to watch 45 minutes of the back of someone’s head,” she said.

Oosterhuis said what happens sometimes is police ask business owners if they have any good pictures and the owners say they don’t.

“I have heard people go to community members and say police weren’t interested, but will tell me something else,” she said.

The best way for business owners to protect their stores is to make it look like there is nothing to steal, Oosterhuis said.

Sgt. Jesse Garcia, spokesman for Minneapolis police, said Minneapolis police are interested in all types of evidence, whether it’s video surveillance, photographs or eyewitness accounts.

“Anytime a suspect is caught on videotape, we are always interested in taking a look at the video to see if we can gather more info,” he said.

He said sometimes the quality of a tape affects whether police are interested in it. Darkness or glare from the sun could affect footage.

Johnson said in most cases police have looked at businesses’ videotapes, but said he has heard from some business owners that they didn’t.

Alice Marks, the owner of SaraCura in Dinkytown, said while nothing was taken when the store was broken into Nov. 4, it has affected the business.

“We are going to have to have our insurance rates raised,” she said. “We will also probably have to pay for an upgrade to a visual security system.”

Marks said some neighborhood business owners are worried the area is being labeled as “dangerous,” which would be bad for business.

Dinkytown’s Student Bookstore manager Alyssa Sommer said business hasn’t been phased by its recent break-in.

“Aside from having the door boarded up until we can have the glass replaced, it hasn’t really had an effect on our business,” she said.

Sommers said she doesn’t believe there is anything else the business can do to prevent further crime.

“Besides having a person inside the store to deter people, there is not much else we can do,” Sommers said.