Dozens of University of Minnesota students, parents and Dinkytown residents heard from police and public safety officials Tuesday evening after a chaotic weekend in the area.
Videos of crowds causing disturbances, with some showing harassment and assaults, flooded social media, prompting police to respond to several corners of the neighborhood near campus last weekend and prepare for a repeat this coming weekend.
The meeting — organized by the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association — was attended by Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara, MPD Second Precinct Inspector Sean McGinty and Office of Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander.
Nick Juarez, the assistant director of diversity and inclusion of the university’s department of public safety and former MPD crime prevention specialist, was among the speakers, as were Council Members Michael Rainville of Ward 3 and Robin Wonsley of Ward 2. Ward 6 Council Member Jamal Osman was in the crowd amongst the attendees.
The speakers fielded dozens of questions via notecards, which mainly revolved around the events of the past weekend, and what enforcement efforts MPD and the university are using to prevent similar incidents and crime in the area more generally going forward.
Marcy Holmes, which covers much of the area around the University of Minnesota, has seen increases in some crimes, including assault offenses, destruction/damage/vandalism of property and motor vehicle theft, over the previous three year average. Other crime areas have seen decreases relative to previous years’ average, among them burglary/breaking and entering larceny/theft and robbery.
Despite the breadth of the previous weekend’s incidents, McGinty said crime is down all throughout the Second Precinct, which covers Northeast and much of the area around the U of M campus, and most of their metrics for this calendar year are trending down.
O’Hara said 10 people were either arrested or cited for various offenses over the weekend — seven of the 10 were juveniles, and one of them was arrested on all three nights and remains in custody. Of the more than 40 juveniles that police made contact with over those three days, 35 of them were from the suburbs.
One of the questions asked O’Hara why police don’t pursue the stolen cars, and the chief cited MPD’s vehicle pursuit policy that prevents officers from initiating chases due to the danger the chase poses to the officer, the driver of the stolen car and any residents in their path. But, he said, he altered the policy last week to allow for an exception: if the driver of the stolen car has a gun, displays or fires the gun, officers can now ask to initiate a chase.
“I have expanded what officers are allowed to pursue for, but that’s only because of those types of firearms crimes, crimes of violence and our need to bring people to justice,” he said.
McGinty said MPD is planning to have 10 to 12 officers assist UMPD with upcoming commencement ceremonies. They’ll also have help from the Minnesota State Patrol, and implement a “traffic disruption plan” that worked for officers the previous weekend.
The university’s department of public safety has also placed a portable camera at a hotspot intersection on 4th Street Southeast that has a live feed being monitored by the university’s 911 dispatch center.
“You can expect to continue to see a very enhanced and visible police presence,” O’Hara said. “And you can expect to see some disruption to the traffic patterns because that’s a very smart way (McGinty) has tried to disrupt these folks because we know they’re coming in personal vehicles, or they’re coming in from suburban areas into the community.”
Chance Desai, a 19-year-old university student who’s lived in Dinkytown for about a year, said he hasn’t had any personal experience with crime but hears about incidents all the time. After the town hall, he said he feels assured the university has a plan going forward.
“I thought it was good that they came together here because there were a lot of concerns regarding these incidents,” he said. “It’s good to hear that kind of public opinion, as well as the response from officials and law enforcement and the university regarding the situation.”
But Ana Silva, a 22-year-old student and Dinkytown resident from Brazil, said she doesn’t feel safe, never walks around alone and avoids certain places in the area because she’s afraid something might happen.
“They say my country is dangerous but no, I want to go back to my country,” she said. “It’s here that is dangerous.”