For more than a year, Minneapolis business leaders have complained that the increase in nuisance crimes such as panhandling, purse snatching, and public urination has begun to erode the area’s reputation, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Serious crime downtown has risen 22 percent from a year ago. In what is being called a first-of-its-kind joint crime-fighting strategy in Minnesota, three local law enforcement agencies will work as a single unit to patrol downtown.
Minneapolis police, Hennepin County sheriff’s deputies, and Metro Transit officers will patrol hot spots. They also will walk beats with private security officers and, by midsummer, will be able to communicate through a common radio channel. Other parts of the “Safe Zone” plan include a greater focus on chronic offenders and what happens to them in the court system, and the hiring of about 20 uniformed safety ambassadors by the end of the year trained to call police when crime happens and be a welcoming presence as “roving concierges.” Police Chief Bill McManus said the initiative goes after “the subculture of disorder” that has developed downtown. Part of the problem has come from turf battles over marijuana. The initiative emerged from meetings among business leaders, McManus, Mayor R.T. Rybak and other law enforcement officials. It will cost about $700,000.