Last year, as riots, looting, and anarchy erupted on the streets of Minneapolis in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the city saw its homicide rate skyrocket from 48 murders in 2019 to 84 last year. Things haven’t improved in Minneapolis this year, and the city could end up seeing the most murders in its history, surpassing the 97 homicides recorded in 1995. There’ve been at least 67 homicides in the city in 2021, but as PBS and the Star-Tribune newspaper report, the crime is concentrated in just a handful of the city’s neighborhoods.
If not for the grisly news reports, many residents in Minneapolis may not have noticed the violence. Nearly 90% of the gunfire reports since 2020 came from five neighborhood clusters: Near North, Camden, Powderhorn, Phillips and Central. An analysis of gunfire incidents by census blocks further revealed how specific locations are driving up the citywide numbers. The Star Tribune interviewed dozens of people who live and work in these areas, which are by and large more ethnically and racially diverse, younger and lower income.
“It’s never been like this,” said Kia Banks, 42. Banks works in an assisted living home in the Folwell neighborhood, where shootings are up about 140%. Her clients love their community but feel unsafe walking outside in the afternoon. “I don’t like to stay after dark and be driving around at night. I’m afraid of that.”
A block away, a mother is selling her house, fearing her kids could be the next to get caught up in a hail of stray bullets.
“I just keep my kids away from the windows, and mainly I sit on my floor, because just in case, I don’t want to be hit or have my kids hit,” said the woman, who feared that her name appearing in this article would make her a target.
What’s happening in these neighborhoods is a tragedy, but it’s also a lesson for those who insist that the way to improve public safety is by casting a wide net of gun control laws over legal gun owners in the hopes of ensnaring some criminals as well.
Five miles south, in the Loring Park neighborhood, Kim Valentini has started locking the doors to her store even when it’s open.
Living in this area for about 30 years, Valentini, 60, has seen it grow into a beautiful center of the city. A mix of new apartments and the ones built a century ago have made it one of Minneapolis’ densest and most eclectic neighborhoods. That’s why she chose Loring Park to open the retail arm of her charity, which provides oral surgeries for impoverished kids around the world.
But about 19 months ago, the neighborhood abruptly changed. “The bottom fell out,” Valentini said.
Her business has been burglarized five times. Her car has been stolen twice. Her family wakes to gunshots in the night.
Gunfire reports in Valentini’s neighborhood are up almost 400% through August compared with prepandemic averages, and the neighborhood’s first homicides in years have put the small community on edge.
Shots fired in neighboring Stevens Square-Loring Heights are up about 200% from average. Adjacent Lowry Hill and Lowry Hill East, part of the Calhoun-Isles cluster, jumped from a combined average of nine gunshot reports through August each year to more than 60 in 2021. Violent crime is up in all four neighborhoods.
Valentini believes police want to help, but they’re stretched too thin. At the same time violent crime is rising, police data show arrests for these offenses dropped by around one-third this year. “I feel guilty, frankly, about making calls to 911 about hearing shots fired,” she said. “If there isn’t imminent danger, I don’t call.”
My colleague Tom Knighton is going to have more on the police response (or lack thereof) to shootings in these neighborhoods in another piece coming up later today here at Bearing Arms, but it’s clear (to me, anyway) that the city’s response to last year’s riots have had far more to do with the rise in violent crime than a lack of a universal background check law or Minnesota’s “shall issue” concealed carry system. Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minneapolis City Council were quick in their calls to defund the city’s police department, and this November city residents will head to the polls to case their vote in a referendum to abolish the city’s police force and create a new Department of Public Safety in its place.
Rather than reimagining policing or demanding federal gun control laws, city leaders should be focusing resources on these five neighborhoods where 90% of the shootings and homicides have taken place since last June. It’s hard to engage in the type of proactive community policing that’s needed, however, when law enforcement itself is viewed as the enemy by those in charge. There are substantive steps that Minneapolis could take to make these communities safer, but with the current crop of politicians running (and ruining) the city, the good people living in bad neighborhoods shouldn’t hold out much hope for a quick turnaround.