Violent Crime Rates Down Again
On December 22 the City released our crime statistics for 2008. It looks like we are headed in the right direction with a second straight year of double-digit reductions in crime. It is especially good to see reductions in our most violent crimes and in juvenile crime.
Violent crime in Minneapolis is down 13 percent citywide so far in 2008 when compared to 2007 and down 24 percent compared to 2006. Homicides are down 22 percent from last year and down 39 percent from 2006. Robberies decreased 18 percent, aggravated assaults are down 8 percent, and juvenile crime dropped 17 percent in 2008.
As we look at crime statistics it is important to note that this data is only as good as our system of reporting and entering crimes into our system. I am sure we have all heard concerns in the past about under-reporting of crimes. I know for a fact of crimes in Ward 2 that have been reported to me but that have not resulted in police reports. Just as we need to encourage our officers to follow up on calls and complete reports so that we have good data and so that we can hold criminals accountable, we also need encourage one another to call to 911 when crimes are in progress and 311 to report crimes. I hope that the efforts we have made in recent years to make reporting crimes easier has helped. If you have had trouble reporting a crime please let me know.
Still, the best evidence we have leads us to one clear conclusion: Violent crime is down in every Minneapolis police precinct.
The Second Precinct, which covers the Southeast Como, Prospect Park and the University neighborhoods, led the city in violent crime reduction, falling 21 percent. Violent crime fell 12 percent in the First Precinct, which includes Cedar Riverside, and 11 percent in the Third Precinct, which includes the Cooper and Seward neighborhoods.
It is hard to know exactly why the crime rates go down and many variables, including economic forces, that are beyond our control undoubtedly have an impact.
Nevertheless, this news gives use a chance to highlight some of the effort that have been made over the last two years by Police, policymakers and community activists alike to focus on proactive, preventive efforts that may be factors in our success.
We have been able to maintain and increase the number of officers on our forces. Additionally, we have a more diverse police force that ever before. Many of us have also been pushing for more community-oriented policing strategies to better connect police to communities, combat juvenile crime, and improve overall public safety.
Here are some highlights that I have been supporting that I think may be part of reason we are doing better.
1. Our coordinated youth violence enforcement and prevention programs appear to be having results. Less than 20 percent of all arrests in 2008 involved juveniles – a decrease from more than 30 percent in 2006. Juvenile violent crime fell 23 percent in 2008. Over the last two years, juvenile violent crime in Minneapolis has dropped 42 percent --- at the same time as we have implemented several interwoven prevention and enforcement strategies launched as part of our Blueprint to Prevent Youth Violence: a multi-faceted, multi-year action plan takes a public-health approach, treating youth violence as a preventable problem. These include:
• A new Juvenile Supervision Center in City Hall that provides teens committing lower-level offenses with resources they to stay in school and get back on track.
• A Juvenile Criminal Apprehension Team that arrested nearly 950 of the city’s most violent youth offenders. Getting the most violent teens out of the community helps them and keeps neighborhoods safer.
• Minneapolis Public Schools awarding a five-year contract for School Resource Officers to the MPD. This new effort provides increased opportunity for officers to work with youth in constructive activities and build stronger relationships.
• Police are using a Safe Routes to School collaborative program with the Minneapolis School Board to identify a six-block radius around ten schools which are most challenged by crime. MPD is partnering with McGruff House coordinators and neighborhood associations to ensure that children can take the safest possible paths to walk and bike to school.
• A two-year $200,000 grant from the United States Department of Justice to fund a new full-time youth gang prevention coordinator position, focused entirely on solving gang-related problems.
2. A more community-oriented approach may be paying off.
• Minneapolis, for the first time ever, has a Neighborhood Policing Plan for each of its 83 neighborhoods. Now as we enter the second year of this effort it is even more important that MPD officers, crime prevention specialists and residents work together to leverage these plans into more meaningful tools to address crime concerns specific to their neighborhood and measure crime reduction efforts.
• In 2008, MPD Crime Prevention Specialists trained 89 new block leaders, bringing the total number of block clubs citywide to 1,893.
• For the sixth time in the past eight years, Minneapolis has won 2008 National Night Out’s top Award for cities with populations greater than 300,000.
• MPD Inspectors at the City’s five precincts have been working hard to implement a coordinated approach to helping neighborhoods most challenged by crime and the problems that can result from foreclosed and vacant properties.
• The First-Precinct-lead downtown SafeZone Collaborative is a great model for creating successful public-private sector public safety partnerships. The SafeZone Collaborative helps make downtown safe and welcoming for residents and visitors. This successful collaborative will be replicated next year in the Cedar-Riverside area of the West Bank.
• MPD added a new type of vehicle to its fleet this year. The battery-powered, zero-gas-emission T-3 personal mobility vehicles let officers see farther, move faster, and allows people to connect directly with officers on the street.
• Late this year the MPD opened a new substation at Block e. The Block e station and Community Outreach Center is a joint effort among Block e, the Minneapolis Police Department, SafeZone Collaborative, St. Stephens Human Services and other community organizations aimed at connecting people with information and services as part of an ongoing effort to keep downtown a safe place to live, work and visit.
• Community Impact Statements are now available on-line for the first time allowing the public to submit statements to the courts and have an effect on sentencing.
• MPD is has more officers than ever involved in community outreach initiatives. Approximately 250 officers have participated in Spanish language training and regularly use their foreign language skills at community meetings, schools and churches. MPD has a full-time liaison to the Latino community and a full-time liaison to the Somali community.
Finally, above and beyond these more direct public safety efforts, is the work that we do as a city to promote affordable housing, economic opportunity, job training and job placement. Education, housing and employment are all key to reducing crime. These may become even more important as we enter potentially less certain economic times next year.