Progress in Minneapolis: Businesses can now board their windows up

“Minneapolis is a city steeped in a rich heritage of progressive politics.” So wrote a researcher in 1995. We saw a sign of that progress this week.  

Last August, my colleague Tom Steward reported that “Minneapolis is one of the few cities anywhere that bans the security bars and gates that are commonplace elsewhere around the world.” He quoted the Star Tribune:

Unlike the City of St. Paul, which allows external shutters as long as owners request a permit, Minneapolis limits security shutters to the inside of a property, leaving windows vulnerable to attack. In a report justifying the rule change, Minneapolis officials argued that external shutters “cause visual blight” and create the impression that an area is “unsafe” and “troublesome.”

But, as violent crime continues to rise in the city, aesthetics have given way to safety. The City Council unanimously agreed to overturn its ban on external security equipment in December, and, as the Star Tribune reported on Monday:

From small retailers to corporate giants such as Target and Ameriprise, property owners are rushing to take advantage of a new ordinance in Minneapolis that allows them to use retractable metal shutters and roll-up gates to protect their assets. Even the city of Minneapolis has joined the movement: The Police Department was one of the first to add retractable shutters to its downtown First Precinct. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis also began installing shutters on its front lobby windows last week.

This could well be a wise investment. The city is bracing for the trial of Derek Chauvin. There are worries that it could spur a repeat of last year’s rioting. Earlier this month city leaders sent a letter to business owners encouraging them to seek additional private security and make sure their insurance policies are up to date. Hardly reassuring.

In 2021, Minneapolis remains true to that “rich heritage of progressive politics”: violent crime might be out of control, but you might, eventually, be allowed to board your windows up.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.