Metro Transit touts 140k mural amid rising crime on system

Metro Transit’s 40-point plan to deter the violent crime and vagrancy plaguing the Twin Cities’ light rail and bus lines continues to flounder a year into the highly publicized security operation. A new quarterly report on the transit system’s crime rate will be released soon. But so far, serious crime on metro light rail and bus lines has increased by two-thirds year over year, from 817 crimes in 2022 to 1,352 crimes through March of this year.

A recently posted public safety fact sheet detailing the woeful results of the attempt to recruit more police and security personnel goes a long way toward explaining why.

-107 full-time police officers (out of 171 authorized)

-41 part-time officers (out of 80 authorized)

-15 Community Service Officers (out of 70 authorized)

-22,643 calls for service in Q1 2023, (+9% compared to Q1 2022)

The beleaguered agency, however, hasn’t found any difficulty recruiting personnel for the ninth action item in the 40-point plan. Here’s the way Metro Transit puts it.

Continue investment in public art at facilities to deter vandalism and create a more inclusive, welcoming experience.

A local artist answered the call for the latest taxpayer-funded public art to go on duty in the effort to enhance public safety and confidence. The $140,000 taxpayer-funded mural was unveiled at a hub in south Minneapolis that the Star Tribune notes has been the site of recent violence.

Metro Transit is turning to murals in an effort to make its bus and light-rail stations more welcoming.

The latest installation is at the I-35W and Lake Street Transit Station in south Minneapolis, a busy hub that’s been plagued by graffiti and where two people were wounded in a shooting this spring. Police data also show there have been two robberies near the station this year.

Metro Transit officials insist it works. Not necessarily to reduce crime but rather graffiti.

Metro Transit employees collectively spent more than 500 hours in the past year removing graffiti from transit property, but taggers have largely left murals alone, said Mark Granlund, the agency’s public art administrator.

He pointed to walls at the Lake Street/Midtown light-rail and bus station, which he said became “like the neighborhood bulletin board for tagging” after the murder of George Floyd. Metro Transit put up a mural about a year and a half ago in that space, and it’s been tagged only once since, Granlund said. A nearby utility shack repainted two years ago hasn’t been tagged, he said.

At this point the agency probably has to take a win, however it comes. But the riding public won’t be so easily impressed, judging from the reaction of Strib readers to Metro Transit’s priorities.

-Rather than murals, how about more police for that would be the station transformation everyone wants. Murals….that’s funny. Only in Minneapolis.

-$140,000? For a mural in a bus station?

-Only Metro transit and Minneapolis could come up with such a foolish idea.

-How about we stop criminals at their stations. That is the transformation people really need.

Nevertheless, Metro Transit has already zeroed in on the next target to clean up in the agency’s relentless public art safety campaign.

Next year, Metro Transit plans to place a mural on the elevator towers at the Blue Line’s Franklin Avenue Station to cover and help deter graffiti there, said spokeswoman Laura Baenen. The agency in August is launching a pilot to test graffiti-resistant wallpaper for bathrooms and other indoor spaces where tagging is common.