Facts: Minneapolis Violent Crime Average Citywide, Up 69 Percent in Downtown West Over 11 Years

Check out the statistics used in this article: You can research Minneapolis crime statistics on the city website and check out the collected data behind this article’s charts on Google Sheets.

Crime in Minneapolis has been a hot-button issue recently, flaring up tensions over perceptions of violent crime and a policing strategy to address it.

Just this morning, another headline:

As a Downtown resident, I live in one of the highest-crime areas of the city. In the past year, (365 days) Downtown West has seen 437 violent crimes, 73 percent more than the second-highest-crime neighborhood. Much of the violent crime is concentrated in the nightclub areas of Downtown, around Hennepin Ave and 1st Ave N, south of Washington Ave.

So is the crime we are experiencing now normal, or is it really higher than years past?

Crime In Minneapolis Year To Date October 2 Crime In Minneapolis Year To Date October 2 Normalized Violent Crime In Downtown West Year To Date October 2

For the city overall, violent crime and property crime are lower today than they were 11 years ago when available records begin. In those 11 years, the city population has grown by about 11 percent, so the rate of crime by population has dropped as well.

light rail train at Warehouse District / Hennepin Ave station

The light rail station at Hennepin Ave is a frequent crime hotspot. Photo: Author

For the neighborhood of Downtown West, which includes the theater district and entertainment spots along 1st Ave N and Hennepin Ave, violent crime has risen 69 percent over 11 years, although this year is lower than the peak in 2017. The Census Bureau does not have yearly population estimates for neighborhoods, but the Minneapolis Downtown Council estimates that the greater Downtown area has a residential population of 49,781, a 56 percent increase in population since 2006. Combine those two numbers, and it’s clear that crime is rising at a faster rate than would be expected with the population increase.

What can we do to address Downtown crime, then?

In my conversations with police in the First Precinct, which covers Downtown, the three investments that would help them the most on the margin would be youth outreach (such as YouthLink), homeless outreach (such as St. Stephen’s Human Services), and mental health teams that combine the skills of mental health professionals and police.

Right now, 70 percent of sworn officers are part of the “biddable” part of the staffing model for Minneapolis police. This means that all the specialized services and neighborhood beat cops that residents and local businesses are asking for are capped at about 30 percent of the model.

Flower planters at Minneapolis Central Library

Recently, flower planters were installed to discourage people congregating near the Minneapolis Central Library. Photo: Author

My take, as a Downtown resident, is that we need to approach this challenge with a “safety beyond policing” mentality. The city can invest in youth outreach and homeless outreach without increasing police staffing levels. We can also make real progress on a better solution to bar close that increases safety for the public and police. We have been debating bar close for years, and little has been done to address the structural incentives that make that time of the night dangerous.

In this conversation, it is important to have your voice heard. Sending an email or giving a call to your council member increases your power. Show up for neighborhood meetings and show up with the statistics for your neighborhood over the past 11 years. The facts may surprise people who have biases shaped by local news, or they may show, like in Downtown West, that there has been a real, sustained increase in crime.

What does crime look like in your neighborhood? What solutions would you like as a resident, and what do you hear from your local police and outreach workers? Share your stories and your insights in the comments.

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13 Responses to Facts: Minneapolis Violent Crime Average Citywide, Up 69 Percent in Downtown West Over 11 Years

  1. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke October 11, 2019 at 10:05 am #

    I like your take on what we need to decrease crime downtown, Conrad.

    • Frederick Hippchen October 12, 2019 at 6:26 pm #

      I volunteer with Moms Demand Action and just heard from two City of Mpls staff members who are responsible for implementing what you call, Conrad, ‘”safety beyond policing””mentality. One the the multi-dimensional programming objective is the render law enforcement as a last resort consistent with maintaining public safety. I agree with that.

      I do disagree with asserting that we can do this without increasing law enforcement personnel. First, you probably noticed supplementing police presence with Transit Police and Hennepin County Deputies at various times. I believe I may have seen Bloomington officers there at one time . . . not sure.

      Second: That suggests at these times, the available MPD officers are too few to be able to schedule extra help from their own ranks.

      Third: Crimes are acts of the present moment. They are predictable because we know they WILL and where they are likely to occur, and data indicates they are on the rise endangering live and property, as well as having an economic impact on business.

      The programs of “safety beyond police mentality” are going to take time not only for their implementation, but too penetrate into the ranks of those who commit crimes. We can’t forget how many thousands of Level 1 calls went unanswered.

      We have to do both . . . as simultaneously as possible. I believe at least 30 as the Chief and Councilwoman Bender suggested. As the national averages for cities our size and the ratio of police-to-population suggest MPD is way below the national average. Another indicator for implementing both “safety beyond policing” mentality, and increasing the number of officers with increased community policing training, and formal/longer education

      In conclusion, I spend a lot of time downtown at all hours doing street photography. My hometown of Chicago gave me an urban awareness, and I can say the “feel” of rising tension and violent frisson has increased significantly over the past 5-6 yrs. I can feel myself much more alert than in the past.

  2. Kal October 11, 2019 at 10:45 am #

    Interesting points and appreciate the article. As a fellow Minneapolis resident I’m totally for more police. I’d love police hanging out and walking a beat down Hennepin as they do along Nicollet. Not there to harness and arrest people, but simply there to increase the perception of safety and security, while allowing locals a chance to interact and speak with police. To me, the idea that extra police in this area wouldn’t help will hold us back from actively addressing this problem and this street will continue to get worse. I love Hennepin Ave and want it to be the beating heart of nightlife and culture of Minneapolis, but if we sit around and don’t actively address the problem with simple solutions like increasing the police force I fear it will continue to get worse and the perception of Minneapolis from outside will continue to get worse, no matter if it’s statistically unfounded.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 11, 2019 at 12:48 pm #

      Visible police do not create a sense of safety and security for everyone. Nor is it clearly a solution.

  3. Andrew October 11, 2019 at 10:52 am #

    I think the best way to make bar close safer is to get rid of “bar close” and just let them say open as long as they want. There wouldn’t be such a big rush of people all at once just dumped out into the street.

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller October 11, 2019 at 12:49 pm #

      That is what I was going to say. “Hey, everybody try to go home at once,” is just a bad idea.

    • A October 16, 2019 at 11:17 am #

      This has been tried before but for some reason the Protestant (or Lutheran?) sentiment prevails in the city government. Here’s hoping the sentiment will change.

  4. Marc October 11, 2019 at 11:44 am #

    Conrad: Thanks for another great article. I live in one of the buildings in your pictures. Do you know what percentage of the violent crime is related to the bars at night? I feel as if Downtown West is a safe neighborhood, provided one avoids the bar areas at night. So even though I live right there, I feel completely unaffected by the violent crime and it would be far down on the list of concerns that I, (a middle-aged father with small kids) would bring to my CM.

  5. Karl October 11, 2019 at 3:42 pm #

    Bar closing time absolutely needs to be part of the solution. Chicago has a 3 AM close on weekends (2 AM Su-Th) with some bars granted an extended-hours license to go two hours later than that.

    I’d also note research shows people under the influence of marijuana are less aggressive and violent than people under the influence of alcohol.

    • Andrew Evans October 17, 2019 at 1:53 pm #

      I’m not sure bar closing is really the cause. Almost 15 years ago now I used to help friends who did club nights, part of that was handing out flyers downtown around close one summer. I can’t ever recall seeing a fight, hearing gunshots, or being worried about any of that. Now some of those same people and promoters I used to help have said it’s different downtown.

  6. Devin Hogan
    Devin Hogan October 11, 2019 at 9:43 pm #

    Thank you for sharing Conrad. As we talk about police staffing issues and community safety, it is important to remember the police are the third largest budget item behind Public Works and Capital Investment, more than the Health Department, Department of Civil Rights, and Community Planning and Economic Development [CPED] combined.

    We increasingly ask our police force to solve structural problems instead of fully funding upstream investments that prevent crime. As you mention, safety beyond policing can take many forms, including youth outreach, homeless outreach, and mental health teams. We know what it takes and now it’s a matter of making it a priority in our budgets. As you said, make sure your voice is heard!

  7. J October 17, 2019 at 9:52 am #

    Getting more police officers into dangerous areas won’t address the root causes and shouldn’t be seen as a solution to complex problems like homelessness, mental illness and poverty.

    However, until those solutions are implemented and showing desired outcomes, we need more cops.

    When your pipes freeze in the winter, the first thing you do is shut the water off and repair the pipe – probably with a temporary fix like sharkbite or epoxy pipe wrap. Once the water stops gushing you focus on increasing insulation, ensuring your thermostat doesn’t drop too low at night, etc.

    Of course, cities can tend to operate like landlords who dust their hands off after a quick fix and fail to follow up until things reach crisis level.

    • Andrew Evans October 17, 2019 at 2:03 pm #

      That’s just it in a nutshell.

      Well and part of it is usually no money or resources are reserved or earmarked to study, report on, or audit a given program or law. That’s much less interesting than promoting, getting support, writing, and implementing whatever it is that needs help. It also runs the risk of pulling money, costing people jobs, and getting negative press. So sometimes it’s easier to keep patching the holes rather than rework the whole system.

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