Community notebook // Robberies on the rise downtown

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June 18, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss

In the first half of 2012, violent crime in the 1st Precinct, which covers the downtown area, increased in all categories compared to the same period last year. Robberies, in particular, have spiked. 

 

However, 1st Precinct Insp. Eddie Frizell said that the increase can be in part ascribed to recent record lows for crime. 

 

“The numbers can be a little deceptive because of the simple fact that we’re coming off historical lows for crime across the board,” Frizell said. “To use a simple analogy, if you had one robbery last year and now you have two, that’s reported as a 100 percent increase in robberies.”

 

That scenario is exactly what happened with the city’s homicide rate. According to statistics provided by the Minneapolis Police Department, there have been two homicides in the 1st Precinct so far this year as opposed to one last year — a 100 percent increase.

 

Other categories show similarly large percentage increases based on relatively small reported cases. Domestic aggravated assaults increased from 21 to 35 cases, a nearly 67 percent increase. Robberies rose from 55 cases last year to 119 this year, a 116 percent increase.

 

While 119 robberies may sound like a lot, Frizell pointed out that as many as 70,000 people are downtown every day. He also said that the statistics don’t reflect the Police Department’s apprehension rate, which is high. 

 

In the last week of May, the 1st Precinct had five reported robberies. Four individuals were apprehended for those robberies within a week, with a known suspect for the fifth. 

 

The police statistics show that downtown typically experiences an uptick in crime when warmer weather arrives. The early spring may be partially responsible for the increase, as it brought bigger crowds to downtown earlier than normal. 

 

To address the seasonal crime bump, the annual summer SafeZone program is now in effect. The program, now in its seventh year, adds additional foot patrols from the Minneapolis Police Department, Metro Transit Police, Downtown Improvement District and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office in the downtown area. 

 

“That’s a traditional thing we do during the summer,” said Frizell. “It’s not in reaction to anything. It has a secondary effect of making people feel safe.”

 

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said the Sheriff’s department will have six to 12 deputies on patrol in the Central Business District from early afternoon to late night on weekdays and during weekend events as part of the SafeZone program. 

 

Stanek said he hand picks the deputies for the duty and all receive special training to deal with downtown’s particular issues, such as homeless people who may be in need of social services.

 

“Our main job is [to be] a physical, visible deterrent,” said Stanek. “In other words, you’re going to see my deputies out walking a beat. They’re proactive. They’re mingling with the citizens.”

 

The SafeZone program runs roughly through Labor Day. Despite the additional officers, Frizell said the best way to lower the crime rate is for citizens to be aware. Many of the 1st Precinct’s reported incidents are crimes of opportunity, such as valuables left in plain sight in cars or smart phone thefts, a crime that is on the rise nationally. 

 

“People walking down the street entranced by their iPhones or iPads have no situational awareness,” said Frizell. “And those people could become a target. The MO of some of these thieves is coming up behind an individual and snatching it out of their hand.”

 

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Another apartment building planned for the North Loop 

 

NORTH LOOP — The Brunsfield Group, a multinational industrial and residential real estate construction company, plans to build a five-story, 50-unit apartment building with an underground garage at a recently acquired site, according to information in a state grant application.

 

The site, 915 Washington Ave. N., is the site of a former gas station constructed in 1946, notes from the North Loop Neighborhood Association board meeting on April 25 indicated.

 

Brunsfield representative Vincent Lim filed for an environmental cleanup grant through the state, but the company needs city approval first. The state approved its request for a Response Action Plan on April 24, one of many steps in the review process for receiving Environmental Protection Agency grant money.

 

Stacey Van-Patten of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said the company is seeking a Department of Employment and Economic Development and/or Met Council grant, ultimately funded through the EPA. 

 

The NLNA approved support of the grant in an April 25 meeting after Lim presented the group’s project to the board. He met with Planning and Zoning officials to discuss the project proposal before meeting with the community board, meeting notes said.

 

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Walker Art Center kicks off Open Field

 

HENNEPIN — The Walker Art Center’s summer-long Open Field project is back for its third season. From June 2– Sept. 1, the Walker’s lawn will host a bevy of creative outdoor activities designed to help people engage with the community and the arts. 

 

In 2011, over 100 individuals and organizations hosted unique activities at Open Field, including art-making, collaborative drawing sessions, yoga on the lawn and much more. 

 

Open Field is free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and until 9 p.m. on Thursday. This year’s season includes new features like custom-made Tool Kits located around the field with materials for activities like making string figures. Other new features include resident phenologist Abbie Anderson, an outdoor library and spontaneous theme days.

 

Several popular events and features from previous years also make their return. Every Thursday evening will feature both the collaborative Drawing Club and Acoustic Campfire, a series of concerts by local musicians. The first Saturday of every month will focus on family-friendly events. 

 

Included in this year’s Artists in Residency program for Open Field are Carl and Betsy DiSalvo, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology. The DiSalvos will lead interactive workshops based on the concepts of local food and re-imagining the kitchen. 

 

Open Field will also feature several special events over the course of the summer, including Northern Spark, ‘80s Night, Summer Movies & Music in the Park and more. For more information, visit walkerart.org/openfield. 

 

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Groundbreaking held for East Bank apartments

 

EAST BANK — Doran Companies has broken ground on the Mill & Main luxury apartments — one of two projects planned for the historic Pillsbury A Mill Complex. 

 

The Mill & Main project calls for two buildings with a total of 375 market-rate apartment units, but the first phase of the construction will focus only on one 180 unit building.

 

The first building will feature several unit types, including two-story townhomes, studio apartments, and one, two and three-bedroom units. Each apartment floorplan carries a name drawn from Minneapolis, such as Surdyks, Soap Box, Lund and Kramarczuk. 

 

The first building will also feature community rooms, yoga rooms, saunas, a business center and a plaza with firepit and reflecting pool. Additional amenities such as a rooftop greenspace are also being considered. The second building will likely offer similar amenities. 

 

Plymouth-based Dominium has plans to build another project called the A Mill Artist Lofts in the remainder of the A Mill complex. The company’s plans call for 255 units of affordable housing for artists. 

 

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Relax on The Plaza this summer

 

NICOLLET MALL — On June 1, another downtown green space became home to special summer events. The lawn outside Marquette Plaza, 250 Marquette Ave., has been dubbed “The Plaza on Nicollet” and will be home to free outdoor events.

 

The 1.5-acre park is currently hosting a Prince-themed piano from Pianos on Parade. On June 20, Lifetime Fitness will teach free yoga and spin classes on the lawn at noon. Natural Step Tai Chi will lead sessions every Friday at 8:30 a.m. and noon.

 

Events on The Plaza are curated by The Musicant Group, a firm that specializes in placemaking and public affairs. 

 

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Africa comes to Minneapolis

 

CEDAR-RIVERSIDE — The Cedar Cultural Center, which was named the Best World Music Venue in the world for 2012, has announced a new series that will bring musicians from all over Africa to Minneapolis. African Summer on the West Bank kicked off on June 5 with a performance by Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars and concludes on Aug.

7 with a show by Mali’s Amadou & Mariam. In between, the series will feature performers from Sengal, South Africa, Madagascar and Benin. 

 

“I don’t know if or when we’ll have the opportunity to book a lot of these bands again,” said Cedar Cultural Center executive director Rob Simonds in an email. “We’ve been chasing Amadou & Mariam for five years, for example, in partnership with Philip at the Walker and Sue McLean. And thanks to a special relationship with her U.S. agent, we’re one of the few U.S. venues that was even offered a show by ‘the Queen of Mbalax,’ the traditional/pop hybrid music from Senegal, Viviane N’Dour. You can’t say no to a Queen!”

 

The schedule for the African Summer on the West Bank program is below:

 

Viviane N’Dour and the Jolof Band (Senegal): June 20, 7:30 p.m.

 

Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo (Benin): July 10, 7:30 p.m.

 

The Johnny Clegg Band (South Africa): July 12, 7:30 p.m.

 

Wake Up Madagascar (Madagascar): July 13, 7:30 p.m.

 

Spoek Mathambo (South Africa): July 19, 8 p.m.

 

SMOD (Mali): July 31, 7:30 p.m.

 

Amadou & Mariam (Mali): Aug. 7, 7:30 p.m.

 

 

— Patrick Roche contributed to this report.