Robberies in Marcy-Holmes up from this time last year

The latest robbery occured early Monday morning.

Kaitlin Walker

Minneapolis police reported 13 robberies in Marcy-Holmes and one in Prospect Park neighborhoods since Oct. 1 âÄî an unusually high number, police said.

Roughly five robberies were reported in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood over the same period last year.

The latest incident happened early Monday. A man was physically assaulted and robbed as he entered the footbridge at Fifth Street Southeast and Ninth Avenue Southeast, according to a police report.

Dan Merkl, a Minneapolis Community and Technical College student, was confronted by two black men around 12:30 a.m. on his way home from Burrito Loco in Dinkytown. Both suspects were between the ages of 18 and 21, and were wearing dark clothing the report said.

The suspects made racist comments about Merkl being white and then jumped him, kicking him in the face and chest. Merkl was left with a red boot print on his chest, red marks on his forehead, a bloody lower lip and chin and a swollen left eye.

The suspects took the MerklâÄôs wallet and cellphone before running westbound on Fifth Street Southeast.

Minneapolis police issued a crime alert Monday with details about the 13 robberies. The suspectsâÄô race and the number of suspects involved have varied from incident to incident. During some robberies a weapon was used or was present, but in others only physical force was used to steal from the victims.

In all cases the suspects approached victims and asked to use a phone, for change or if they wanted to buy drugs before forcefully robbing the victims, according to the alert.

âÄúI would suggest to not let these potential suspects use your phone, or give them a cigarette or tell them what time it is,âÄù Minneapolis police Sgt. Steve McCarty said. âÄúIt can be used as a distraction technique.âÄù

Police do not think the crimes are connected because robberies continue to happen despite nine arrests, University police Lt. Troy Buhta said.

âÄúUsually when you make a few arrests for robberies, robberies go down, and weâÄôre not seeing that happen,âÄù Buhta said. âÄúThis seems to be groups that arenâÄôt connected, as far as we can tell right now.âÄù

Dinkytown makes the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood a hot spot for robberies, said Second Precinct Crime Prevention Specialist Nick Juarez.

âÄúOn any given weekend there can be a couple hundred people trying to get back to where they need to go,âÄù Juarez said. âÄúYou get all these people, and eventually theyâÄôre going to find easy targets. ThatâÄôs why most of the robberies are happening in and around Dinkytown.âÄù

 Juarez said victims are often intoxicated, making these targets even easier. McCarty said they have seen a lot of victims who are distracted by cellphones or other electronics.

Merkl said he was drunk and had just finished a phone conversation with his roommate when he was assaulted, which he believes contributed to being targeted.

Police have extra squads patrolling the area, and Buhta said University of Minnesota police have their community response team patrolling for suspects.

McCarty suggests making eye contact with approaching strangers.

âÄúA lot of times people are afraid to make eye contact,âÄù McCarty said. âÄúThat signals sometimes to these suspects that prey on people that they are weak or what have you. ThereâÄôs nothing wrong with making eye contact.âÄù

Police donâÄôt suggest fighting back if someone asks for a wallet or purse.

âÄúIf it comes down to it and people demand, especially at gun point, a wallet or iPod youâÄôre better off giving it to them and just noting what the person or people look like and becoming a good witness for police at that point,âÄù McCarty said.

Residents can do things to prevent becoming a victim. McCarty suggests leaving valuables at home or in a pocket. Women should keep purses inside a jacket when the weather calls for one.

âÄúWe all have to try to take some steps to keep ourselves safe, because there are people who will prey on unsuspecting innocent people,âÄù he said. âÄúWe donâÄôt like to see that in our city.âÄù