City and community leaders in Minneapolis are calling on residents to “stand up and speak out” against violent crime after a recent spate of shootings.
Violent crime has surged in the city following last year’s riots over the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter activists’ calls for defunding law enforcement. Violent crime surged 21% in 2020, and 2021 is threatening to continue that trend as police grapple with a string of shootings, the most recent resulting in two dead and eight injured.
Minneapolis community leaders held a “take back the block” rally at Shiloh Temple in north Minneapolis last week to kick off a campaign of community pushback to violent crime. On Monday, volunteers took to the streets of Minneapolis in a display meant to signify that criminals do not run the city, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The program comes as the city struggles with a shortage of cops and makes requests to state and federal agencies for law enforcement assistance.
“It isn’t an invasion of your block — this is support of your block,” Rev. Brian Herron said at the event last week, referencing the volunteers that would be posted at intersections throughout Minneapolis’ North Side. “We want to see you come out. We want to see you sitting on your stoop.”
Minneapolis Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, and Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety John Harrington joined Herron at the event. Harrington used the event to advocate gun control, saying, “We have to get the guns off the streets. We cannot live with this insanity.”
Arradondo begged community members to come forward with any information about the suspects involved in recent shootings and aid police investigations. “Minneapolis police officers will continue to rush into harm’s way to save lives; however, we need help from community leaders and residents to stand up and speak out,” he said.
The Minneapolis police department is understaffed after a slew of officers left the force. Last year, nearly 20% of the city’s police force took early retirement or leaves of absence. The police department cut back some of its normal operations on the heels of the exodus.
“The bike cops and the community engagement has been done away with,” police spokesman John Elder said in January. “Our homeless missions were scrapped. Our 911 response and our investigations are the focus now.”
Earlier this month, Frey took a critical tone toward Black Lives Matter activists that called for defunding police departments as well as city officials who entertained those calls. The mayor said that the rhetoric has played a significant role in driving out police and driving up violent crime.
“When you make big, overarching statements that we’re going to defund or abolish and dismantle the police department and get rid of all the officers, there’s an impact to that,” Frey said. At a news conference earlier this week, Frey said he is requesting federal and state help to curb crime in his city, citing Minneapolis’ dearth of cops.