Police officer fights to keep U area clean

Megan Boldt

Battling illegal bike riders, litterbugs and graffiti artists, Minneapolis Police Officer Robert Patrick Sr. is a welcome presence in the Dinkytown community.
For the last three years, Patrick has walked the streets around the University neighborhood, having returned to uniformed patrol after a stint in the Minneapolis Police Department crime lab.
Dinkytown Business Association President Dan Zielske said almost everyone loves the fact that Patrick works the Dinkytown beat.
“He takes pride in his job and our community,” Zielske said. “He goes well beyond his call of duty.”
Patrick is not a newcomer to Dinkytown. From 1970 to 1973 he managed Century Camera, located where the Crazy Carrot is now.
“When I was here 30 years ago, we did not have to deal with graffiti like we do now,” Patrick said. “I would hate Dinkytown to be a graffiti focal point.”
Patrick has taken on the task of combatting graffiti in the University area. He also said he has convinced many businesses to get rid of graffiti. Last summer, the number of graffiti arrests decreased.
However, a new type of graffiti has emerged in Dinkytown, posing tougher problems for the police and business owners.
Since summer, graffiti artists have damaged many area windows by painting with acid-based substances that cannot be removed.
Patrick has also cracked down on bike riding on the sidewalks in the business area in response to complaints from business owners.
“In a business district, it is illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk. It’s also a city ordinance,” Patrick said.
He said students think he is trying to make their lives miserable, but that’s not the case.
“I am not against bicyclists; I am against them getting hurt,” Patrick said.
While attempting to keep more bikes off the sidewalk, Patrick has fought litter by doubling the number of litter receptacles on the sidewalk.
“One of Dinkytown’s biggest challenges is keeping the area clean,” Zielske said. “Officer Patrick reminds businesses that we need to work together to combat these problems by removing or covering graffiti as soon as possible and removing illegal handbills from poles.”
Patrick’s path back to Dinkytown has been one lined with photography and police work.
After working at Century Camera, formerly a Dinkytown storefront, Patrick was an aerial photographer during the Vietnam War.
He then spent 13 years in the Chisago County Sheriff’s Department where he did much of his work independently and continued with photography.
“In Chisago, you had learn to work by yourself,” said Patrick, noting that only 13 officers patrolled a 300-square-mile area.
Patrick transferred to the Minneapolis Police Department because he wanted to work for a bigger department. Since he has left lab work behind, he said he’s glad he returned to the beat patrol.
“I love it. It is the best police work and one of the most fun jobs I’ve had in the last 23 years,” Patrick said.
“He does not operate as his own entity,” said Zielske. “He is definitely a part of the community.”

Megan Boldt covers police and courts and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.