Were number one

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December 7, 2009
By: Sarah harris
Sarah harris
It was interesting to see that a Forbes.com survey found Minneapolis and the surrounding metro area to be the safest city in the United States. We ranked lowest amongst 40 major cities in the areas of crime, workplace and traffic fatalities, and natural disaster risk. This didn’t happen by accident. It took hard work and collaboration on the part of many people and organizations. And we know collaboration to reduce crime and make our city safer works.  

Several years ago, leaders in our community including Target, Ameriprise Financial, Brookfield Properties, the Minneapolis Downtown Council, BOMA Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Police Department, the mayor’s office, the City Attorney’s office and others came together to focus on making Downtown safer. They formed Safezone Collaborative, a 501(c)3 entity. They installed cameras in Downtown, connected their communications systems through Radiolink and they shared information in a way that produced astounding results. From working together to capture a robbery suspect to locating a lost child in the skyway system, Safezone quickly made a difference.  

But, it didn’t stop there — they started new ideas — like Courtwatch, an initiative that makes the judiciary aware of the real cost of crime by using impact statements and coordinating community attendance at trials. As a result, judges are giving longer sentences that get people off the streets.  

Judges are also using geographical restrictions to keep repeat offenders from returning to Downtown where the offenders have impacted the livability of our community.  And we know it is working because Courtwatch just won the International Association of Chief of Police (IACP) award for Community Policing in Cities with Populations over 250,000.

We competed against other major cities like Los Angeles — and we competed against cities from four countries. This is big news. Not because of the award itself, but because the award signifies that Courtwatch is working — so well in fact that the IACP thought this idea should be replicated in other cities around the world.

We’re breaking ground with new ideas and making Downtown safer in the process.

Janeé Harteau and Luther Krueger from the Minneapolis Police Department, Lois Conroy from the City Attorney’s office and Shane Zahn on behalf of Safezone all accepted the award last month — a tribute to the public and private sector collaboration that made Courtwatch work. What a great way to acknowledge the coming together of our community around a common good.  

Because Safezone was working so well, the business community wanted to find a sustainable way to continue its good work, so it recently became a subsidiary of the newly launched Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District (DID). Now, the DID can make sure that Courtwatch, Radiolink and other proven programs can continue as part of the DIDs’ safe initiatives, while the continuing 501(c)3 status can be focused on attracting monies to fund new safe initiatives.  

The DID also has the power to streamline functions and resources and to go after some really strong initiatives. What DID brings to the table is oversight and big picture thinking. We can connect the award winning safety initiatives to the broader goals of the DID — making Downtown vibrant — and we can do this in a sustainable way across all of Downtown.


Ambassador Profile

Tia, Fusion Center Dispatch

Most unique question asked of Tia:  What is the seating capacity of the Orpheum Theater?

Tia is a multi-tasker. Good thing, too. She works in the Fusion Center watching the cameras, using Radiolink to inform private building security teams, communicating with the Minneapolis Police Department and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and responding to requests from Ambassadors on the street.

She uses various resources such as Google, bus route maps, weather channel reports, event calendars and her life-long knowledge of Downtown to tie it all together.

Sounds like a lot going on at once?

Tia’s up for the task: “I could stay 24 hours a day and not sleep, I like being busy,” she says with a bright smile.

Community service is Tia’s calling — so just as she was finishing her first year at MCTC, where she is pursuing a degree in Social Services, she saw an ad for the Ambassador positions. It was a good fit. Tia has been instrumental in launching the DID program. As a member of the first class of Ambassadors, she was able to help establish the dispatch protocols, develop daily procedures and event logs, identify resources for dispatchers and even help train new dispatchers.

Sarah Harris is the Chief Operating Officer of the Minneapolis Downtown Improvement District, a non-profit organization dedicated to making downtown a clean, safe, green, and vibrant place to be.