A coalition of African American leaders will demand a comprehensive plan from city leadership on Thursday to address the “surge in violence” so far in 2020, citing an “inadequate response from the Mayor and city council.”
Farji Shaheer, the program manager for Guns Down Love Up, said elected politicians must take swift action to save lives in the streets.
According to Minneapolis Police data, violent crime is higher so far in 2020 compared to any of the previous five years. That includes homicides, which have already far surpassed 2019’s total, with two and a half months still remaining in the calendar year.
“It is extremely dangerous for the citizens of Minneapolis at this current time,” Shaheer said. “That lawlessness is felt inside the Twin Cities, and unfortunately the children see it, the young adults see it. There is a lack of police presence.”
That sense of uneasiness was felt in the Uptown and Lyn-Lake sections of South Minneapolis on Tuesday evening, when police say a car was stolen with a six-year-old boy in the back seat. The boy was not hurt, but police say they haven’t caught any suspects and will need to run forensics on the car to help identify them.
The incident occurred in Ward 10, where police data shows a 33-percent increase in violent crime so far this year compared to the five-year average.
That ward is represented by Council President Lisa Bender, who has supported replacing MPD with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The Charter Commission blocked that proposal from appearing on the November ballot, but some of her constituents – including a Bill C., who declined to use his last name in an interview with KARE 11 on Wednesday near 30th and Lyndale – say that Bender needs to communicate better about her overall strategies on public safety.
“We need her to say what she’s doing, why she feels this way. She's not reaching out enough,” he said. “And she's not accessible.”
Bender’s office said she wasn’t available for an interview, but she told KARE 11 in a statement that she is “deeply concerned” about the incident this week involving the stolen car and a six-year-old. She continued:
“The rise in crimes like this in Minneapolis and around the country is both unacceptable and solvable. I am working closely with Mayor Frey, who directs MPD, and my colleagues on the City Council to make sure that we have a clear, strategic and effective safety plan in place, informed by local and national experts, that include both violence prevention and targeted law enforcement. While we build long-term change in our public safety systems we are taking immediate actions, like investing in violence interrupters and shifting law enforcement priorities, to interrupt some of these cycles of violence that are primarily impacting young people of color in Minneapolis.”
Community groups, such as Guns Down Love Up, support the violence “interrupters” that have taken the streets over the past few months to work directly with vulnerable kids.
But they also say a balanced approach is needed to curb the violence.
“We need to have the police understand that abusing individuals and ultimately murdering individuals is unacceptable. But, on the back end, we also need good police,” Farji Shaheer said. “Let’s put the guns down. Let’s hold our community accountable.”
Mayor Jacob Frey’s office also released a statement, ahead of the planned media event by community leaders on Thursday.
The spokesperson said:
“Mayor Frey and Chief Arradondo have outlined clear and concrete steps to effectively address gun violence while responding to staffing challenges within the department. And just yesterday, the mayor joined his colleagues, experts, and community leaders to highlight the new Minneapolis-US violence interrupters initiative – another public health-based response aimed at preventing and disrupting the spread of gun violence in Minneapolis.”