McManus tells Loring Park residents 'Downtown not dangerous'

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April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

At Loring Park's annual neighborhood meeting March 8, new Minneapolis Police Chief William McManus updated community leaders on the Department's planned summer crime-fighting strategy to home in on violent chronic offenders.

Besides laying out new crime-fighting initiatives, at the March 8 meeting McManus took several questions from residents, who asked him about his perception of Downtown safety, his position on police car chases and the ongoing investigation into the conduct of three Minneapolis police officers.

McManus, who has lived and worked in East Coast cities, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and most recently Dayton, Ohio, said, "Downtown is not a dangerous area," adding that fears of inner-city neighborhoods are often fueled by stereotypes more than actual crime rates.

He also said those perceptions are often based on seeing groups of people "loitering" in the streets.

In November, Downtown's image as a safe place came under scrutiny when allegations circulated about a crime spree in Hennepin Avenue's Entertainment District. When reports of an alleged crime spike surfaced, some Downtown people mentioned feeling unsafe outside the City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave. S., where large groups of teenagers tend to hang out.

Business leaders held a meeting with city officials to address concerns about a rise in serious crime and coordinate crime-prevention efforts. Downtown's 1st Precinct, meanwhile, pointed to statistics showing a dip in serious crime but also noted that crime often goes unreported.

While violent crime tends to be low Downtown, the level of so-called "livability" crime, including loitering, consuming alcohol in public, begging and public urination has been an issue for years. The Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association, for instance, has been pushing for a so-called "Nuisance" Night Court to handle livability crimes and pledged $95,000 in Neighborhood Revitalization Program funds for such an effort.

As for police chases, McManus said he was against the practice, pointing to statistics indicating that 50 percent of the pursuits end in crashes. The new police chief ducked the question about the ongoing criminal investigation into the conduct of Minneapolis police officers Deputy Chief Lucy Gerold, Capt. Mike Martin and Lt. Mike Carlson. McManus suspended the three with pay Feb. 26 over an allegedly suppressed report on the 2003 investigation of Officer Duy Ngo's shooting by a fellow officer.

"I have no comment, and I stand by my decision," McManus said.

Besides addressing Downtown perceptions and other questions, McManus said he had a number of initiatives planned for the Department, including:

  • Targeting "chronic call" locations -- addresses that generate the most police calls. McManus said he used the strategy when working in Dayton and Washington, D.C., and credited the practice with dropping the number of police calls between 16 to 45 percent at those locations;

  • Bringing an independent agency to go over police policies to "look at every nook and cranny in the Department"; and

  • Emphasizing the importance of "respect and dignity" with officers at police roll calls to improve the Department's reputation with the community.