Send in the Pinkertons!

More Minneapolis residents and businesses are turning to private security. Why isn’t Minneapolis city government?

Last week, Emma Freire published a piece at City Journal under the headline “Police by another name: demand for private security is booming in Minneapolis.” Noting that crime has spiked in the city, while the number of police officers dwindles, she writes,

Private security has stepped into the breach. The number of licenses approved for new private providers rose from 14 in 2019 to 27 in 2021, according to data from Minnesota’s Board of Private Detective and Protective Agent Services. Demand is exploding as businesses increasingly opt for private guards over off-duty cops.

The local demand for public safety did not diminish along with the city’s ability and willingness to provide it. Instead, public safety is being privatized.

Freire describes how businesses in Minneapolis are turning to private, for-profit security companies to provide services where they previously would have hired off-duty cops. She notes that residents and neighborhood groups are still hiring off-duty police officers.

Hennepin County is taking a different approach to the privatization of public safety. They plan to award $10 million in public safety grants to private, nonprofit groups. Half of the money has already been doled out. The Star Tribune reports,

The county awarded nearly $5 million to more than 50 groups in 2022 and plans to spend the rest of money early next year.

Bayley [Lisa Bayley, who oversees the program] said county officials are experimenting with more innovative solutions outside the criminal justice system: An Art is My Weapon exhibit featured weapons obtained in a gun buyback program; Asian Media Access worked with underserved immigrants, and the Brooklyn Park Lions Drum and Bugle Corps provided youth programming.

What is less certain is whether the spending is having tangible impact.

What is remarkable about the county grants is how the money is being spent everywhere (art galleries, churches, community colleges, hospitals, etc.) except in the places where crime is actually occurring. There are a few exceptions, as the Star Tribune reports,

The county awarded $400,000 — one of its largest grants — to Shiloh Temple International Ministries on West Broadway in north Minneapolis. The church has become a crucial resource in the prevention of violence in the neighborhood.

A team of outreach workers hit crime hotspots from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and “literally ran criminal activity off the corners,” said the Rev. Jalilia Abdul-Brown. The church also runs a food shelf with the hope of dissuading anyone from committing crime in order to feed themselves, she said.

Unfortunately, much of the city’s crime occurs after 7 p.m. and on weekends. Criminals don’t stick to customary business hours as nonprofits do.

If you’re going to privatize public safety, why doesn’t the city and/or county hire private security, and place them in high crime areas? Including nights and weekends?