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More Minneapolis Shootings Thanks to Lurking Law Repeal

After early Monday morning shootings in downtown Minneapolis left six wounded within a half a block of the downtown police station, Minneapolis leaders promptly announced another new anti-crime program.  Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin made a brave and worthy effort to cast a little skepticism toward the success of another new plan but the Star Tribune cover story on the crime included an appalling liberal contortion of the downtown precinct crime stats:

In the First Precinct, which covers the downtown area, however, there has been a marked decrease in the number of gunshot victims, from 32 through the first roughly 10 months of last year to 24 in 2016. That tally doesn’t include Monday’s shooting.

So the Star Tribune thought to characterize going from 32 to 24 shootings as a “marked decrease.”  But wait, 32 was roughly through 10 months of 2015, roughly the end of October.  But wait again, the tally doesn’t include the six shootings Monday night.  If you added one month’s average for October (2.4) and the six people shot Monday you would get an estimate of about 32 shootings through October of this year and that would not be a “marked decrease.”

What preceded the shootings?

Shortly after 1 a.m. on Monday, a call went out over emergency frequencies alerting downtown police officers about a large group of North Side gang members who were walking in the area of the First Precinct police station on Fourth Street, according to scanner traffic. Moments later, shots rang out.

Could it have been prevented?  As Katherine Kersten recently explained in the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis City Council’s recent decriminalization of “lurking with intent to commit a crime” has eliminated an important proactive policing tool that prevents bigger crimes:

Police say the lurking ordinance allowed them to stop and question people acting suspiciously. It helped prevent bigger crimes, like burglary, and to get guns off the street. One veteran officer (who wished to remain anonymous) estimates that the 400 or so lurking charges filed from 2009 to 2014 probably led to 2,000 arrests for bigger crimes.

But even worse this misguided policy has emboldened criminals and put police on the defensive:

Today, gangbangers and criminals are more emboldened than he’s ever seen them, says [retired Minneapolis police Sgt. Tim] Hoeppner. “They know the cops are afraid to stop and confront them about their guns. They taunt and catcall and spit at the cops’ feet, and then pull out their cellphones to video any reaction. They know there will be no consequences.”

“If the City Council members would ever take a walk down Hennepin Avenue at midnight,” Hoeppner adds, “they would understand how badly their policies are hurting the city.” Especially at bar closing, large, moblike groups block sidewalks, steal cellphones, and harass or sucker-punch people.

It’s very possible that last year’s repeal of the lurking ordinance played a role in creating an environment that led to these shootings.  It’s likely that these gangs learned over the summer that large groups of them could wander the downtown with impunity, that cops were powerless to disperse them or check them for outstanding warrants or illegal weapons.  We can thank the Minneapolis City Council who, with strong support from Mayor Betsy Hodges, repealed the ordinance that prohibited outlaws from lying “in wait” or being “concealed with intent to commit any crime or unlawful act.”

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