This year has been a violent one in North Minneapolis, leaving many residents terrified they may be victims of gun violence. The increase in gun incidents on the Northside is fueling a citywide jump in the number of people hurt by guns.
So far in 2016, there is a 90 percent increase in the number of people who have been shot. At least 118 people have been have been hit by gunshots; at the same point of the year in 2015, 62 had been shot.
Scott Seroka from the Minneapolis Police Department’s Office of Public of Information says a number of factors are likely contributing to gun violence. “We’ve investigated recent shootings that stem from gang violence, illegal narcotics distribution, domestic disputes, and personal disputes,” he says.
Amid an increase in shots fired around the city, another concern has emerged in the community: An alleged “slowdown” on the part of police.
Arrests for violent crime offenses are significantly down from last year with there being a 20 percent drop citywide. Additionally, traffic stops and suspicious person stops are down 30 percent.
Many residents claim to have observed a noticeable decline in the number of police interactions with the community. Some have also noted a lack of response of any kind to non-emergency 911 calls.
Widespread speculation holds that police officers have been shook by recent community reaction to high-profile police-involved incidents—such as Jamar Clark’s death. There is also belief among many that Minneapolis police officers are weary of being targeted with charges of racial profiling.
MPD Chief Janeé Harteau was quick to try to end such speculation. “The answer to the decline is complex,” she said, “and there are multiple factors that attribute to those numbers; from fewer resources to increased community engagement to being more selective with what types of enforcement action is necessary. Let’s be clear, however,” she continued, “my officers are not responsible for the increase in violent crime, those who commit the acts are.”
The current response to an increase in Northside violence is to ramp up police activity in the area. Scott Seroka says efforts to stem gun violence are kicking into high gear for the summer months.
“The Minneapolis Police Department had previously committed a significant increase of patrol cars to this area to prevent shootings and retaliatory violence,” he says. “Effective immediately, those additional resources will be patrolling this area seven days per week.”
Further, Seroka notes, Joint Enforcement Teams are now patrolling hot spots for violence—bringing together the efforts of MPD officers, Hennepin County Sheriff deputies, Metro Transit police officers, and Minnesota State Troopers.
Greater coordination is also occurring in shooting investigations specifically, Seroka says. “The MPD’s Violent Crime Investigations Team, Weapons Unit, Gang Interdiction Team, Safe Streets Task Force, and ShotSpotter investigators have been working together, around the clock, in an effort to both prevent and solve these violent crimes.”
“In addition to focused enforcement,” he continues, “we will be working closely with probation officers, the county attorney’s office, and our community stakeholders to combat this problem.”
Seroka says the MPD is working hard to further understand the causes behind violent crimes as well as impediments to stopping it. In the meantime, Seroka asks the community be a strong partner with police in combating gun violence and other criminal behavior.
“Call when [you] see something out of the ordinary,” he says. “Notify us if [you] see a confrontation.”
He also notes the need for witnesses to come forward after incidents occur, saying recent events have him optimistic on that front. “I can tell you, anecdotally, he says, “that we’ve recently had a number of witnesses step forward with helpful information regarding gun violence cases. That hasn’t always been the case. It tells us that our community members are also fed up, and won’t tolerate this violence.”