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Crime fighting heats up along with the weather
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Jonathan Palmer, left, is the director of the Jordan Area Community Council. He and John Zanmiller, a probation officer assigned to Jordan, walked the streets recently to deter criminal activity. (MPR Photo/Brandt Williams)
Minneapolis city officials have announced the creation of the Peace Foundation, which will provide money to neighborhood initiatives to fight crime. In a few weeks the Minneapolis Police Department will roll out its summer policing strategy. But summertime crime has already made its way into one north Minneapolis neighborhood. And some of the residents say they're not going to stand still for it.

Minneapolis, Minn. — It's springtime in the Jordan neighborhood. Like anywhere else in the city, there are flowers blooming and lawns in need of their first cutting of the year. The warm spring weather also brings an increase of gun shots, violence and drug dealing. Usually, the violence is committed by gangs, or between people who know each other.

Sometimes not.

"Everything happened in a matter of seconds," says a neighborhood resident we'll call Gina (not her real name), describing her assault by a drug dealer.

While out picking up garbage, she witnessed a group of three young black men engage in a drug deal several yards away from her. Gina, 50, who's white, pulled out her cell phone and called 911. Two of the men walked away, but a third man picked up a brick and came after her.

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Image Neighborhood watch

"I was over by my car and I guess I was more worried about the car than myself. I didn't want him to bust my windows," Gina recalls. "So I started running away from my car and he followed me. He ran after me in the intersection and he lobbed the stone at me, and it hit me in the back of the head. I kind of doubled over and started shielding myself because he started punching me."

Gina suffered a cut to her head and one of her fingers, and she got a fat lip. The attack left her bloodied and shaken.

"I guess people are wondering if I'm afraid to walk around the neighborhood now ... and I'm really not. I don't feel any differently about the neighborhood than I did before this," she says.

The violence inspired neighborhood leaders to call for street-level solutions.

"We're just out here to let the community know that we're out here -- that they have a neighborhood, and neighbors who care about each other and look out for each other," says Jonathan Palmer, director of the Jordan Area Community Council, who has been coordinating citizen foot patrols.

We're just out here to let the community know that we're out here -- that they have a neighborhood, and neighbors who care about each other and look out for each other.
- Jonathan Palmer, Jordan Area Community Council

On this day, only one neighbor joins the group of four law enforcement personnel who are walking the streets. The group walks up 26th Ave., which is known by police and residents as a popular throughway for drug buyers and sellers.

"Twenty-sixth Ave. North traditionally becomes more of a problem area in the summer months than it is in the winter," says Inspector Bob Skomra, the new commander of the 4th precinct.

Skomra says the warmer weather brings more people on the street -- and more drug dealers. During the summer months, more uniformed and undercover officers patrol along 26th Ave.

Police Chief William McManus is expected to announce the city's summer crime fighting plan in a few weeks. However Skomra says the 4th Precinct has had to start preparations earlier this year because of the assault on Gina, and another incident. This assault involved a motorist at the corner that was the site of a large riot nearly two years ago.

"An individual stopped at Knox and 26th for a stop sign. He was heckled by some youths at that intersection and they attempted to throw a cement block through his front windshield," Skomra says.

The man stepped on the gas to avoid the brick, but the teenagers were able to hit his back window. Skomra says when the man stopped a block away to check the damage, the youths caught up to him and continued to verbally attack him.

Despite these violent assaults, Skomra says for the last five years the entire precinct has seen a reduction in crime. So far this year there have been three homicides in the 4th Precinct, but none in Jordan.

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