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Downtown neighborhoods spending private money for extra police

The effort to cut down on crime faces critics who point out other neighborhoods can't afford to do the same thing.

MINNEAPOLIS — A horrible shooting over the weekend near the Stone Arch Bridge, critically wounding a 34-year-old Nashville man visiting Minneapolis for a wedding, hammered home for Mill District neighbors like Ellie Lucas why they're starting a new initiative.

To try to cut down on crime, she and her neighbors through the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association have raised more than $15,000 dollars of private money to pay for extra police patrols.

"I want it not only safe for me, but I want it safe for everybody," Lucas said.

"The businesses and residents chip in some money, and we hire the officers to work off-duty," said Minneapolis City Council Member Michael Rainville.

Rainville started something similar in northeast Minneapolis 22 years ago.

Starting July 7, the off-duty officers will be fully uniformed, on bike and able to make arrests. Rainville says the focus will be building beat-cop community policing and rebuilding trust with MPD. 

But when the Lowry Hill started something similar earlier this year, some council members raised concerns.

"I'm concerned about the ability of people with money to be able to direct those resources," said Council Member Elliott Payne.

"The larger conversation of privatization of public goods," said Council Member Aisha Chugtai, "The result is always worse outcomes for people who are the most marginalized."

"It's not only a key criticism. It's a valid criticism," Rainville said in an interview when asked to respond to those points.

Rainville said he hopes the community beat cop model downtown residents are paying for will be a model MPD can employ across the entire city when staffing allows it.

"For example, West Broadway should have two or three beats. Lake street, five," Rainville said. "And we will get there. but we need to hire more police first."

This program will last until September, at which point, Council Member Rainville says they will analyze how well it worked.

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