MINNEAPOLIS — Students and parents at the University of Minnesota are expressing alarm about violent crime on one of the busiest stretches of University Avenue near campus, following reports of shots fired, robbery and assault in the past two weeks.
Earlier this month, a current U of M student sent video to KARE 11 — also shared widely on social media — appearing to show large fights breaking out along the 1700 block of University Avenue Southeast at the heart of Fraternity Row. At one point, the video shows people kicking a motionless person on the sidewalk.
A university spokesperson confirmed that the concerns focus on a specific property on that block, owned by an independent affordable housing provider named "Students Cooperative, Inc." The Co-op is trying to evict at least five people from the property, according to court records, with a hearing scheduled in Hennepin Housing Court at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
"It's our understanding no current U of M students or employees live at the property. The Students' Co-operative also has no current affiliation with the University," a school spokesperson told KARE 11 in an email. "Like others in the community, we are deeply troubled by what's happening at the property... the University has expressed its public safety concerns in the meantime and called upon the Students' Co-operative Board to implement security measures, including hiring private security and installing security controls."
Jaxon Hill, a U of M junior who lives down the street, said crime in the area has accelerated in the past two months.
"It's gotten to be pretty much a nightly occurrence," Hill said. "We just have to keep an eye out on that address."
In just the past 10 days, in fact, the university has issued Safe-U emergencies for shots fired (May 29), robbery and assault (May 22) and three assaults connected to a "large house party" (May 21) on the 1700 block of University Ave. SE. In the May 29 shots fired incident, a Minneapolis Police spokesperson described the scene as a disturbance involving a large crowd numbering at least 100 people.
"How do you let this continue, night after night?" said Mike Gilbertson, whose son lives nearby and attends the university. "What is the plan?"
A board member for Students' Cooperative declined an interview request, but issued a statement saying the board "appreciates the community's patience with the legal process." The Co-op, which describes itself as a longtime provider of affordable housing, requires members to go through an application process and receive approval by a board of directors before living on the property.
However, according to court records, none of the people named in the eviction proceedings have "ever entered into a membership agreement to reside in the Property" or "paid rent or deposit" to Students' Cooperative. Lawyers for the Co-op indicated in the court filings that the defendants may have been given "verbal permission" to live on the premises, but that "it is unknown if the person or persons who granted this verbal permission had any authority to do so."
"We share deep concern about the recent incidents of crime and violence at the Students' Co-op. We have filed evictions for everyone in the building," the Students' Co-op Board wrote on its website. "Our long-term goal is to rehabilitate the building so that the Students' Co-op can provide student-centered, cooperative housing."
Minneapolis Police Public Information Officer Garrett Parten said the department has known about the problems along University Avenue since the spring. MPD has increased patrols in the neighborhood and is working side-by-side with University of Minnesota Police, which placed its own security camera across the street from the Students' Cooperative property.
"Efforts continue daily to address the real concerns raised by residents, employees, and students in the area," Officer Parten said.
But some parents, including Matt Gilbertson, are pushing for even more action.
"More cameras and more cops doesn't seem to be working, so what's the answer?" Gilbertson said. "When is something going to be done, and what does that entail?"
Jaxon Hill, who is preparing for his senior year next year, said he'd also like to see a more aggressive response.
"I'm not asking for it to be perfect. I understand there's probably a limit to what they can do," Hill said. "This kind of stuff has been happening every night."
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