March 9, 2005
Minneapolis, Minn. — Police commanders already pull in extra help from neighboring precincts when violent crime erupts. They say the new unit will provide that extra patrol power without drawing down police presence in other parts of the city.
Police Chief McManus says the new division, named Strategic Tactical Operations, or STOP, will make officers visible in the most needed places.
"They'll be out on the street on foot, on horseback, on motorcycles, on bicycles," says McManus. "And the idea here is -- if I can use some street language -- when 5-0 (the police) rolls in the neighborhood, I want the boys on the block to say, 'Let's leave our guns at home.'"
McManus says his aim is to tamp down "livability crimes," such as loitering and noisy parties, as a way to prevent more serious offenses.
The person overseeing the unit right under McManus is Deputy Police Chief Sharon Lubinski. She says the unit has fewer stops in the decision-making process, making it more flexible.
"When you shorten that chain of command, you simplify the communication," says Lubinski. "That means we'll be much more rapid in our response, much more mobile, light on our feet, and be able to move around to where the most serious problems are occurring."
Officials say they'll start the new division in early April. It will be commanded by Lt. Madiera Arradondo. He says the added police presence will supplement the efforts to work with community members to fight crime.
"The community involvement is going to be just as important," says Arradondo. "There will still be the ongoing communication, not only with community members, but certainly with the command staff, who know the precinct areas and have a hands-on feel of how the crime patterns are going to change."
Arradondo calls the current violent crime wave in north Minneapolis -- where eight of this year's 10 homicides have occurred -- a public health crisis. Mayor R.T. Rybak says the crime-fighting strategy should help in this area, and in others where crime might spring up.
"It's not only that neighborhood, but to make sure that throughout the summer and throughout the year we'll have the flexible, aggressive force to do that," says Rybak.
Impromptu memorials adorn the outside of the Penn Best Steak House, where a gunman opened fire Friday and killed two men. Police believe Frank Haynes, 21, was the shooter's intended victim. Raleigh Robinson, 58, was "in the wrong place at the wrong time," according to police. Police have not yet arrested a suspect in the shooting.
Dottie Titus is the director of the Jordan Area Community Council, the association for the neighborhood where the shooting happened. She knows Haynes' mother. She says the violence is creating a concentration of grief and dispair.
"This young gentleman had seven siblings. He's got cousins. He's got friends. He's got a mother who loved him dearly," says Titus. "So the tragedy ripples out. It's a problem we simply have got to get control over."
Every summer, Titus invites kids to her house to bake cookies. She says last summer, she started out with 20 neighborhood children. By the end of the summer there were only two. She says the other families moved away because of concerns over crime.
Titus sees the police response as a way to get kids back playing on the streets -- without worries about nearby drug dealers, prostitutes or stray bullets.
"Interact with each other and build social skills. You know, everybody hides. And it's not the kind of neighborhood you want kids growing up in," Titus says.
One frequent critic of the police department says more law enforcement is warranted. But, Alfred Flowers, a member of the Police Community Relations Council, says it's short-sighted to think that's the only solution.
"More police will help. But jobs and resources for the young people over there looking for work will help better," says Flowers.
The mayor and others say the city is already working on ideas with north side corporations to find a long-term solution, similar to the plan that helped a troubled south side neighborhood. The Jordan area continues to see a rise in the number of violent crimes at a time when crime elsewhere in the city is relatively low.
The area's city council member, Don Samuels, says the first priority is keeping people safe.
"If the city were to have a non-reaction when safety has declined to this degree, then that would be very demoralizing to the community," he says.
Samuels says he's also working with police and others to find ways to repair "the fabric" of his community.