As people pour out of U.S. Bank Stadium after a Vikings win, stream into downtown Minneapolis at the beginning of the workday, attend an award-winning show on Hennepin Avenue or gather outside to enjoy Holidazzle ice skating or fireworks, there’s something that unites us all – a sense of pride, belonging and the need for safety.
Concerns about public safety have been an ongoing conversation in Minneapolis this year. That’s why we’re pleased that the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey passed a city budget compromise that provides increased funding for police staffing and expands investments in violence prevention. The $8.2 million dedicated to public safety in the city budget is a much-needed step in the right direction.
Everyone who lives, works and visits Minneapolis deserves better than what they’ve been experiencing in recent months. For many years in Minneapolis, the business community has worked closely with community outreach agencies, the criminal justice system and law enforcement. We endorse a holistic approach to improving public safety, including working to improve occurrences of poverty, mental health crises, addiction and trauma that can result in crimes.
That includes supporting law enforcement and ensuring a proper police presence to prevent gun violence, drug activity and assaults. Downtown Minneapolis should be safe for everyone – and we believe police officers play an important role in that effort.
The new city budget will increase hiring, training and deployment of additional officers by adding funding for an additional academy class of recruits. These funds increase the Minneapolis Police Department’s base budget, enabling a similar level of hiring, recruiting and training in future years. This will help ensure that the department will be able to keep a steady level of officers working in our city, especially as many veteran officers reach retirement age.
A few months ago, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said that police officials tracked 1,251 instances in a 12-month period in which no squads were immediately available to respond to a Priority 1 call, such as a shooting, domestic assault or a drug overdose. Our police officers are overworked and stretched too thin. Funding for a new group of officers is an important part of ensuring that 911 calls can be answered, and that police will be able to assist citizens across our city.
Downtown Minneapolis is growing – with new businesses, new housing and new restaurants coming online every month. It makes sense for the number of available police officers to grow as well. We need to ensure that our police have the capacity to deter crime and deal with problems.
We also support funding included in the city budget to enhance the Office of Violence Prevention, the Youth Coordinating Board, the Group Violence Intervention program, the Late-Night Ambassadors program, Mad Dads, YouthLink and a new Intimate Partner Violence Prevention initiation. These initiatives reflect the need to engage all parts of our community to prevent crimes before they happen.
We understand and appreciate that these issues can be controversial. We believe Minneapolis will be a safer place with the community and police working together to fight crime. More work needs to be done, but this is a good start.
These public safety investments are a positive example of policymakers overcoming differences for the public good. We appreciate the hard work of Mayor Frey and the City Council, who were able to forge a path forward that shows public safety is an important priority for our city and includes investments to back that up.
Jonathan Weinhagen is the president & CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber. Steve Cramer is the president & CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. Also signing on to this commentary’s viewpoint are Melvin Tennant, president & CEO of Meet Minneapolis; Joanne Kaufman, executive director of the Warehouse District Business Association; and Kevin Lewis, president & CEO of BOMA Greater Minneapolis.
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