In case you were unaware, or weren’t actively listening to your constituents, you have a problem on your hands. The problem of course, is crime. And, this problem is not going to get better until you address it head on.
Take the Downtown Police Precinct 1 as an example. As of this writing (August 12, 2019), a search of the Crime Data Dashboard, on the Minneapolis Police Department website, indicates since June 1st there have been at least two homicides, 89 robberies, 83 aggravated assaults and 18 rapes; totaling 192 violent crimes for the timeframe. Numbers surely to increase by the time you read this!
While MPD officials will readily admit to a spike in crime in the summer months, a comparison to the numbers from last year shows a marked increase. Specifically, there has been an increase of over 40% in robberies, an increase of over 15% in aggravated assaults and an increase of close to 13% in overall violent crime incidents in the precinct year over year. Lest you think this trend is isolated to Downtown, check out the data for yourself and you’ll clearly see this is a citywide issue to varying degrees.
I moved Downtown in May 2017, from the suburbs, because I was tired of commuting 20 miles one way and was looking to live closer to work and the array of activities within walking distance. I sold my car and put upward of $1,500.00 into a new bicycle and the various complementary accessories. It is my primary mode of transportation, year round; and, frankly, I enjoy it. Even in the dead of winter!
In 2+ years, I’ve had 2 theft attempts on my bike. The first attempt, while unsuccessful left a noticeable dent in the main frame of the bike; which, I now have to regularly monitor for structural integrity. The manufacturer graciously offered to replace it for a discounted price of $650.00. The second attempt, was successful and recently documented in Tim Harlow’s August 11th article, “Bicycle thefts hit five-year high in Minneapolis”.
The theft occurred on Monday, July 8th outside of my apartment, adjacent to Hennepin County Medical Center. I contacted MPD and filed a report with the responding officer and was given a case number. The following morning, I contacted HCMC regarding the incident and requested video footage from their banks of cameras. By end of day, they confirmed the theft occurred at 5:47 p.m. and had still images and video of the act.
Understandably, they could not provide me the evidence directly, indicating MPD would need to request it. I contacted MPD to alert them to this new piece of information, as well as, provide my serial number just in case it was found at a local pawn shop. Given a relatively meek response from MPD, I endeavored to do as much as I could to be proactive on my own behalf.
I joined a Facebook group, Twin Cities Stolen Bikes, downloaded several resale apps and checked Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace 2-3x/day. 5 days after the theft, feeling somewhat dejected and contemplating my future transportation options, TCSB notified me the bike was for sale on Marketplace, listed for $350.00. I was equal parts elated and angered. Along with several friends/family, and TCSB, we made multiple inquiries and attempted to set up a buy with the fraudster.
The thief gave a general location as to where he was at, but was not forthcoming about a time. I contacted MPD, but soon came to realize my Saturday night problem was not a high priority; and, they would not provide a guarantee they would show up to the designated meeting point. I also learned policy prevented them from performing property recovery after 10 p.m. Given we were within 30 minutes of passing this threshold, a casual, seemingly indifferent, post back to the thief suggesting it was getting late and we should connect in the morning was made.
The following day, a time/location was eventually settled upon. It should be noted, we discovered the thief was using his own name on the listing and is currently on probation in Hennepin County for, wait for it, theft! I sent the listing to his Probation Officer along with my proof of ownership and contact details. Having contacted MPD roughly 8x throughout the week and getting very little assistance, I decided to work with TCSB exclusively.
We arrived to the meeting spot early and I learned through the course of our conversation, my TCSB expert had already helped recover 75 bikes in roughly two years’ time! We devised our strategy and set out to recover my stolen property. Luck was on our side that day as a friendly biking passerby was happily commissioned into service in our quest for “vigilante justice”.
The thief, and my bike, were spotted moments later walking down the street towards us. My biking compatriots intercepted him before he reached the meeting point and placed hands on the bike. I sprinted across the intersection and held in every ounce of pent up rage I had built up over the week, to prevent myself from committing a felony of my own. That said, for 90 seconds I ranted and raved like I haven’t since I was a hormonal teenager.
After thoroughly scaring the living daylight out of this, clearly drug-addled junkie, and watching him scamper away I took stock of what had become of my ride. Fenders gone, ditto with the rack and water bottle holder, back tire slashed, lights/reflectors stripped. Even the caps to the end of the handlebars were removed! What could those be worth, a dollar?
Later that evening, at the urging of my TCSB bike recovery specialist, I posted my story in the private group site and received over 400 positive likes/comments. I wanted to give hope to those out there still separated from their own bikes, but it wasn’t all sunbeams and lollipops. I received a veiled message on Facebook Messenger from someone claiming to be, “a friend of a friend”. Sure enough, he was associated with the thief.
Monday, July 15th, I contacted the Parole Officer, as well as, MPD and informed them I recovered my bike and wanted to press charges if given the opportunity. I was told they would review the video footage, compare it to the Marketplace listing and contact me if they needed me to corroborate any information. As of today, I have yet to hear back from MPD; and, when I contacted the Parole Officer he informed me he never viewed the footage and wouldn’t be able to assist me further. I’m still out roughly $200.00 worth of accessories, but I digress.
Given MPD has only been responsible for recovering less than 10% of stolen bicycles (346 bicycles out of more than 4,300+ reported as stolen) since 2017, it is obvious we have a problem. MPD Police Chief, Medaria Arradondo, recently requested adding an additional 400 more patrol officers by 2025. During a July 18th meeting with the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, he noted over a 12-month period dating back to last summer, police counted 1,251 instances in which no squads were available to respond to a Priority 1 call, such as a shooting, domestic assault or a drug overdose. He was roundly criticized by several City Council members, as well as, our bike lane advocacy Mayor, Jacob Frey.
Adding more officers to the force, to increase our per capita ratios, to align our city with cities of similar size would be ideal. But, in terms of bike theft, mandatory bike registrations coupled with an expanded partnership with local bike shops would allow for greater scrutiny. Were bike shops to check serial numbers every time they perform an inspection, repair, service, etc. and compare it to the city registration database, it would enable victims more opportunities to recover their property. Additionally, it may be worth considering creating a statute for bike theft specifically, whereby a felony, or at least a gross misdemeanor, can be levied for property valued below the $1,000.00 threshold (current level to qualify for a felony). Perhaps a $300.00 threshold would allow for an increase in prosecutions because currently, there are little to no deterrents; while, the upside is enormous for a thief.
Our City Council is 12/13 Democrat and 1 Green Party Socialist. We haven’t had a Republican on the council since the late 1990s, haven’t had a Republican Mayor since the 1970s; and, our U.S. Congressional District 5 has gone DFL since 1946. Yet public safety and livable communities need not be a partisan issue. For instance, during my experience in recovering my bike, I learned my TCSB friend was a moderate Democrat; and, we got along splendidly in spite of my own affiliation as a conservative, Trump supporter. He drove me to the bike shop for repairs and I stored his in my apartment while offering up a cold beverage as a small token of my gratitude.
Despite the political homogeneity, we have achieved a great place to live for hundreds of thousands of people. We are the economic hub of the entire state, the cultural and social gathering point of the Upper Midwest and a place we should all be proud of! But, unless we tackle our crime problem, take steps to curb the violence and the drug addiction that oftentimes facilitates these acts, we’ll have achieved ‘peak livability’ and be on the downward side of a sustainable community.
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