Recent crime elicits neighborhood response

by Kevin McCahill

Three more robberies last week added to a spree of similar events around campus and have raised concerns among area residents.

The most recent robbery occurred Nov. 24 in the Prospect Park neighborhood. A Domino’s Pizza driver fought off three males who threw him out of his car and stole approximately $68 in checks.

The other robberies occurred Tuesday night in the area of Eighth Street Southeast and Third Avenue Southeast, and 27th Avenue Southeast and Essex Street Southeast. In both, victims were robbed at gunpoint.

Recent crime outbreaks and an increase in crime this year have forced neighborhood leaders to face the issue of resident safety.

James De Soto, neighborhood coordinator for Southeast Como Improvement Association, said residents have expressed concern about recent crimes around the University and he is trying to keep them informed.

“People are concerned, and they don’t feel safe anymore,” De Soto said. “And this isn’t acceptable.”

According to statistics provided by the Minneapolis Police Department, the number of aggravated (armed) crimes has risen in recent years, and has hit record highs in some categories this fall.

“The aggravated nature of these crimes, and seeing weapons, that’s definitely got people concerned,” De Soto said. “The last year and a half has gotten substantially worse.”

De Soto said he believes the police are doing their job.

“The police are patrolling as well as they can,” he said. “Unfortunately, they don’t have the manpower they need.”

On Oct. 26, a group of Southeast Como residents met with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to discuss their opinions on crime and police support.

Jim Long, crime prevention specialist for the 2nd Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department, said there has been an increase in robberies near campus.

Eleven robberies were cited between Oct. 1 and Nov. 24 in 2004 while 20 were reported in that period in 2005, Long said.

Police aren’t sure where the crimes originate. He said the department is trying to increase patrols but said there is only so much that can be done.

“We are doing as much as police can, given budget situations,” he said.

Long advised students to be wary of strangers and to travel in groups. Most importantly, he said, students should not fight back if they are robbed.

“Life and safety is the most important thing,” he said.

Melissa Bean, executive director of the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association, said residents have taken a proactive approach to keeping the area safe.

Earlier this year, the 15th Avenue Pedestrian Lighting Initiative was sparked by students’ safety concerns. The neighborhood also has a safety and livability committee. The group meets next at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at First Congregational Church.

Bean said that although crime numbers are high, it typically follows the weather. When winter weather sets in, the numbers likely will decrease, she said.

Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association President Joe Ring said the neighborhood typically has a low crime rate, but people with criminal intentions might have moved in.

“We are trying to make people aware before it becomes a big problem,” he said.

Yelena Kibasova contributed to this report.