Minneapolis residents have begun patrolling their own neighborhoods after violent crime across the city surged in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in late May.
The patrols, some armed, are part of a largely grassroots efforts to protect neighborhoods, businesses, and residents from rioters and criminals. Some groups have constructed barriers at the entrance to their neighborhoods and control who can enter, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Minneapolis Police Department has emphasized that, though elected officials and some protesters are pushing to defund law enforcement, officers remain on patrol throughout the city. The department approves of neighborhood watch groups working in coordination with police and emergency services as long as the watch groups avoid vigilantism and do not set up autonomous zones like the recently abolished one in Seattle.
“We have long supported neighborhood patrols. All laws must be obeyed by those engaging in these patrols,” Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder told WSJ. “We have been clear these are in supplement to the police department and not as a substitute.”
Some in the community may see the neighborhood patrols as alternatives to city law enforcement, however.
“I am hesitant to call the police,” 30-year-old Kadence Hampton said. “They are not proactively preventing any type of harm. When they do show up, they escalate things. I am not convinced calling the police is the safest thing to do.”
Crime surged across the city after civil and violent unrest broke out in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. Floyd died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Cell phone video of the incident set off mass protests as well as riots that rocked major U.S. cities.
Gun crime across the city has surged in the past two months to historic highs. Already, the number of victims from gun violence in the city has topped the annual totals for eight of the past 10 years. The large majority of victims, over 80%, are black, according to police data.
The Minneapolis city council took the first concrete step toward defunding its police department on Friday, cutting $1.5 million from the department’s budget. The council voted unanimously in June on a resolution calling for the police department to be abolished.
The riots have caused an estimated $500 million worth of damage to businesses, homes, and other buildings in Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul. In early July, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz sent a request to the Trump administration for federal funds to help and rebuild the metro area. President Trump, who has criticized elected officials for not cracking down on violence in major cities, rejected the request.
“The Governor is disappointed that the federal government declined his request for financial support,” Walz’s office said in a statement. “As we navigate one of the most difficult periods in our state’s history, we look for support from our federal government to help us through.”