MINNEAPOLIS, MN. (NewsNation) — Crime has become a major concern around the country, including in Minneapolis. Over the past year, the Minneapolis Police Department crime data report reflects that burglaries are up 6%, thefts are up 31% and carjacking are up 14%.
Some residents have decided to band together and take matters into their own hands to keep their neighborhoods safer. Residents are hiring police officers through the Minneapolis Safety Initiative, an initiative the city council passed in January.
It’s a controversial agreement between a nonprofit and the city to hire off-duty police officers to work extra hours and patrols. The initiative raises money for the services through crowdfunding, or the practice of raising money from a large number of people.
Residents are donating a suggested $220 a month for a minimum of six months to cover the costs. Patrols cost $110 per hour.
But not everybody is a fan of this effort.
Cedarside Community Council Executive Director AJ Awed joined “Morning in America” to explain why he believes the initiative is being misused and could be redesigned for a greater purpose.
“At the end of the day, everybody wants to feel safe, and safety is a priority for all communities,” Awed said. “And we need more officers. Unfortunately, this policy … has really pit neighborhoods against each other.”
Awed said that the poorer neighborhoods have to find creative ways to feel safe, especially when more diverse neighborhoods are the ones that are seeing the most increase in violence and shootings in the city.
The Minneapolis Police Department is experiencing a major staffing shortage that eventually has led some of Minnesota’s cities to actually disband their departments altogether.
After campaigns to defund the police as a result of the outrage over the killing of George Floyd, which triggered a major racial reckoning throughout this country that has highlighted some of the underlying issues with policing, more and more police officers are leaving the force.
Since then, criminal activity has increased dramatically.
“I believe that this patrolling should be actually used in ways that actually affects the most deeply affected neighborhoods,” Awed said.
He believes this policy is creating a second wave of modern-day redlining. Awed said that money is the object here. The people who can afford the extra protection don’t necessarily need it as much as poorer neighborhoods that are seeing the increase in criminal activity.
“But when we have a decrease in officers, when there’s a mandate that we need to have 731 officers in the city and we only have about 564 — and we’re seeing a rise in crime, violent crime and shootings in predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods — I think that this type of policy doesn’t really help the ones that are underlying and affected,” Awed said.
Awed explained that one of the reasons why there was a racial reckoning in the city is because many people feel as if the institution of policing does not prioritize people of color or those in poorer neighborhoods.
“I think this coming together would have been better used — I would say, and I would have preferred — I would have loved to see some of my neighbors in more affluent, wealthy neighborhoods really coming together and not making it about peripheral issues, but really making it about the central issues,” Awed said.
He said that there are kids dying on the north side of Minneapolis where he doesn’t see these types of initiatives helping the affected areas. Instead, Awed sees people “doubling down,” and focusing on their privileges rather than trying to make real change.
Awed believes that the mayor and the city council should be looking into alternatives that are able to bring neighborhoods together to help the community at large.
“And I think it’s fair to say that, you know, the more affluent neighborhoods that we’re talking about are predominantly white. So again, this is a segregation issue to a certain extent, where we’re just dividing the city that should be coming together and healing after the racial reckoning of the murder of George Floyd, that triggered that racial reckoning in the city and the uprise,” Awed said.
But Awed explained that it seems as if the leadership in the city is really just listening to one side and a segment of the population in prioritizing their interests.