With crime rising in Minneapolis, residents want more police on the streets

Last week, I wrote about crime in St. Paul and the response of the city authorities. I mentioned a suggestion – how helpful I don’t know – from Ward 4 council member Mitra Jalali Nelson that people should just stop calling the police so much.

This might not be such as bad suggestion. It depends on whether we are seeing an increase in crime levels or an increase in perceived crime levels. Social media allows news of particular incidents to spread rapidly and widely. IN this way, one incident can be experienced by a vastly larger number of people than was the case, say, a couple of decades ago.

In the case of St. Paul’s twin, Minneapolis, it seems that perceptions of rising crime are a reflection of statistical reality. As the Star Tribune reports,

Police officials say crime statistics back up the view that safety has deteriorated in the city’s business center.

Reported robberies — a key indicator of a city’s overall safety — are dramatically up this year, according to police data. Total robbery numbers from Jan. 1 to Aug. 26 were 240 this year, compared with 156 in the same period last year.

Even more recent data show that as of Monday, robberies in downtown’s western half have jumped 70% over the same period last year.

Forty-eight of this year’s robberies occurred in a three-week span last month, including 23 from Aug. 20-26.

The neighborhood, one of 88 in the city, accounts for one in every five robberies in Minneapolis, police say. Property crimes there are also at their highest levels in the past five years.

The number of shootings in the surrounding First Precinct are up 22% from last year, to 28 — slightly more than the five-year average of about 27 — with most taking place in Downtown West, which includes most downtown bars and clubs. Overall, violent crime increased 27% year-over-year, mostly because of the spike in robberies.

A recent poll showed that 63% of Minneapolis residents support expanding the city’s police force to 850 patrol officers by 2025. According to Fox 9,

Along racial lines, 61 percent of white residents supported the expansion and 65 percent of people of color did the same.

According to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, the results are similar to what he’s hearing in the community. 

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen our population increase by almost 50,000 people and we’ve seen our police officer count go up by pretty much none,” he said. “It’s remained stagnant.” 

“That’s not a sustainable metric,” Frey added. 

Last month, the Police Department noted that more than 6,000 priority one calls (mostly violent crime) went unanswered in 2018. The department said that is further proof the city is understaffed.

In addition to the department expansion results, the survey showed 42 percent of residents believe crime in Minneapolis is a serious problem, with 41 percent believing there is more crime in the city now than a few years ago.

Concerns over crime in Minneapolis are especially high among people of color, with 54 percent saying it is a major problem. 49 percent of people of color say there is more crime now than in recent years.

Most Minneapolitans added that they feel safer in the presence of police officers (65 percent), which includes 59 percent of people of color and 69 percent of white residents.

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