County stiffens Downtown warrant and probation enforcement

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March 14, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

The Hennepin County Sheriff's Department will form a Warrants Task Force with Minneapolis Police and Community Corrections to better serve warrants and enforce probation violations Downtown.

The Hennepin County Board approved the plan 5-2 on March 1, with Mike Opat and Downtown Commissioner Gail Dorfman voting no. The County's Public Safety Committee will meet Tuesday, March 15 to decide staffing levels.

Commissioner Mark Stenglein said he pushed for the task force after hearing Downtown business leaders' safety complaints. He would like to have at least two sheriffs' deputies and two probation officers work the detail.

Dorfman said Downtown behavior problems come from several quarters. There are those who commit violent crimes, revelers who drink too much and urinate in public, and homeless people with mental health and chemical dependency issues.

She voted against the plan because it would criminalize people who are homeless, sending them back through the court system without addressing the underlying problems that create homelessness.

Stenglein said the Warrants Task Force is not targeted at homeless people. He said Downtown Commissioner Peter McLaughlin added an amendment to create a separate working group of mental health and chemical dependency professionals who would better coordinate services to people with unmet mental health problems and similar issues.

That wasn't enough to get Dorfman's support. "It is better than it was," she said of the amended proposal. "I am concerned that the primary focus is 'Get these guys off the streets.' That is fine with me, [but] let's figure out the right way to do it - and the right place to go is not jail."

Stenglein said he does not feel safe walking Downtown at night, a comment Dorfman called irresponsible, saying Downtown is safe and vibrant.