Living with an expectation of crime in Minneapolisby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
In response to recent high-profile homicides, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak wants to increase police visibility in north Minneapolis and in Uptown. Rybak delivered his state of the city speech in north Minneapolis, the scene of several killings this year. Some people who live and work in Minneapolis say they have come to expect to encounter crime there.
Minneapolis, Minn. — Minnesota Public Radio surveyed its audience members about the recent shootings and their perceptions of how safe they feel in Minneapolis. Some respondents, like Carissa Tomlinson, say they feel less safe.
Tomlinson lives in the Lowry Hill East neighborhood, one of four that overlap the Uptown entertainment district. She says she won't walk around the area at night without pepper spray and her dog, Olive.
"I feel a little safer with her," says Tomlinson. "Although sometimes I wish I had a scary pit bull or something."
Tomlinson's dog is a far-from-ferocious greyhound. One day recently, she walked Olive in broad daylight not far from where she was mugged about a year and a half ago.
The mugging occured around 10:30 p.m., when a man walked up behind Tomlinson and started talking to her. He grabbed Tomlinson's purse and wrenched it away from her after a brief struggle.
"I lost $20. That's about it," she says. "He never used my credit cards."
Tomlinson almost casually mentions that since living here, she's expected to be robbed. She says she's felt that way because at least five people she knows have been robbed, too. But after Michael Zebuhr was killed in an Uptown robbery, Tomlinson says she feels less safe.
"Everybody who's gotten mugged -- it's like they take their purse and it's not really that big of deal," she says. "Maybe there's a gun, which is super-scary. In my case there wasn't. But, it's not violent for the most part. I always felt fairly safe. It's kind of an inconvenience. It was scary, but it's not like being shot. That really scared me a lot."
The Uptown entertainment district is a rectangular area that stretches eight blocks along West Lake St. It's bordered on the north by 28th St. and on the south by 31st St.
Kris Arneson, Minneapolis Police commander in the 5th Precinct, says the most common crimes in Uptown are thefts and burglaries. So far, she says, in Uptown there have been 10 robberies this year, which is down from last year at this time.
But Arneson says robberies are more likely to happen on the sidewalks and side streets, just outside of the busier streets.
"There's a transition point where, as you go into the neighborhoods, the lighting is decreased significantly," Arneson says. "There's a lot of cars parked on the street. You have a lot of apartments, single family homes. People aren't necessarily out walking the street a lot, but when they are on the street they are more isolated."
Arneson says people walking in these areas are less at risk of robbery if they travel in groups. She says women should avoid carrying large purses, and instead tuck a small purse in their jacket and keep their cash in a pocket.
Some of the strongest reactions to the MPR News survey came from people like Allan Malkis, who say the attention paid to these crimes represents a double standard.
"My thoughts are that it's a bigger deal for white people to get murdered in 'safe' neighborhoods, than for low-income people and people of color to get murdered in the neighborhoods where they live," Malkis says.
Malkis lives in St. Paul, but he works for a nonprofit agency on West Broadway Ave. in north Minneapolis.
The north side contains the largest concentration of the city's African-American population, and growing numbers of Asian-Americans and Latinos. So far this year, it has been the site of just over half the city's 17 homicides. Violent crime in north Minneapolis has increased nearly 80 percent over this time last year.
Malkis says that makes it easy to dismiss north side crime as business as usual.
"I think the community should be concerned every time someone is shot and murdered," says Malkis. "But I think there's a certain amount of fatigue that sets in. Or there's a certain amount of unconsciously saying, 'Well, that's what you can expect if you live in that neighborhood.' Which I think is pretty unfair to people who don't have much of a choice of what neighborhood they can live in."
Uptown resident Carissa Tomlinson says she understands that north Minneapolis has an urgent need for police resources. But she says crime happens in her neighborhood, too. She says she would like city officials to keep that in mind when they decide where to put a few extra police officers.
- All Things Considered, 04/18/2006, 5:19 p.m.