Public Safety Becoming Key Issue in Minneapolis Mayoral Race

How much of an issue will public safety be in the upcoming Minneapolis mayoral election? The Star Tribune raised the stakes with an editorial a week ago headlined “Downtown’s dilemma: ‘A mind-set of violence’ in Minneapolis.”

But downtown also has a stubbornly rising crime rate that threatens all of the effort and investment in making this area vibrant and attractive. Robberies are up significantly. Homeless encampments are becoming more common. Weekends bring regular reports of shots fired. Complaints about aggressive panhandling are up, and some light-rail transit stations have become trouble spots that draw crowds of young people late at night.

The paper followed up last weekend with a powerful column from Carter Averbeck, a longtime downtown resident who often no longer feels safe on the streets. The headline again speaks volumes: “Downtown Minneapolis was once a great place to live. No more.”

In the span of 17 years, I’ve watched the city go from vibrant, to shaky, to frightful.

No longer do I enjoy watching revelers along First Avenue, nor entertain the notion of going out for dinner downtown if I would have to walk home after nightfall. What I now see is a volatile mix of angst and boredom, victim and predator, roaming the streets. Downtown has changed into something disturbing and despondent.

The author’s compelling first person perspective gives readers who may not get downtown Minneapolis a good reason to avoid risking their well-being for a night–or day–in the big city.

What has replaced the former spirit is a mixture of gangs, troubled young people and panhandlers moving along the corridors, day or night.

I have now become accustomed to fights breaking out during the day along Hennepin Avenue, where young people challenge each other regularly.

A particular hot spot seems to be the sidewalk in front of the public library. I can only make street-smart, educated guesses as to why that is.

No wonder the columnist calls downtown a war zone.

Gunshots ring out two to three times a week at 2 or 3 a.m., from rival gangs intent on offing each other. Years ago, I would have jumped out of bed at such sudden mayhem. Now it’s routine, as is my call to 911.

With my cellphone, I have filmed dead gang members being rolled into ambulances after a barrage of 15 gunshots went off on my block. That was in 2016. The metal door in the lobby of my building still displays the bullet marks.

I’ve watched fights and knifings in the middle of Hennepin Avenue at 10 p.m. on a Friday night, stopping traffic. With no police in sight, cars just drove around the melee to get by.

The city’s elected officials are part of the problem in the author’s view, not the police.

It’s sad to see a city go to waste when its potential is so high. It makes me want to move somewhere safe, somewhere where I don’t have to listen to sirens all night, or to meth heads hacking up old memories in the back alley. Or to gunshots.

It’s as if city government has turned a blind eye to the real-life problems of downtown, determined to put a glossy cover on a badly written book. And for what? Vanity? Arrogance? I cannot tell.

You can’t Photoshop reality. It brutally is what it is, and if city leaders don’t buck up and get tough with action, our downtown is doomed as an oasis of exciting, vibrant life offering a plethora of options for all.