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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nick Coleman's Corner

Yes, I know that usually I savage Star Tribune Columnist Katherine Kersten in this space, who so richly deserves. Nick Coleman, on the other hand, is somebody I usually agree with or at the very least have few problems with. However, his most recent column, about the "crime epidemic" in Minneapolis, is a bit different.

Let there be no doubt that the senseless killings in Uptown and Downtown in the past couple of weeks are true tragedies. However, this does not mean that the sky is falling, or that Minneapolis is once again becoming "Murderapolis". If you listen to some people, however, you would think that armed gangs of thugs are terrorizing everybody. Nick Coleman seems to be a bit alarmist.

Coleman starts by describing the surveillance tape of the gruesome murder, and it is rightly awful. Somebody dies because he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the response times are accurate (two minutes for the police to arrive, another seven minutes for paramedics), then it sounds like emergency personnel got there quite quickly. All well and good so far.

But then he moves on to expressing outrage at all of the things people have said about the murders, that they were random, an aberration, and that the killers are deeply troubled. Not good enough, according to Coleman. And maybe he's right. But to me, the fact that these were very random acts is relevant. These aren't gang turf battles that could be expected to continue on indefinitely. This isn't organized. These are individual screwed up people. They will always exist. I'm not going to let them keep me from enjoying the city, any more than I let potential drunk drivers keep me off the roads.

Coleman says that we have gangs of unruly youth in the streets, and we do. So do most large cities. But what are we going to do about them? More cops comes the answer. Swell, but how will you pay for them? And are we going to criminalize being a youth on a corner?

Plus, there's always the racial component to this. When you hear "gangs of unruly youth in the streets" of Minneapolis, most people are immediately going to picture a group of black youth, not white. Groups of white youth usually don't enter into people's images of the big bad city. Again, criminalizing hanging out on a corner is not going to help the situation.

Coleman's next comment is the one I find the most odd. He says, "If people are bringing a .44 Magnum into a movie theater in the heart of the city's entertainment district, where are the metal detectors?" Somehow, I doubt that tourists and people from the suburbs are going to feel more comfortable about walking around downtown if there are metal detectors all over the place. It's a city, not a prison camp.

More cops would be great, but as I said before, there seem to be a lack of discussions about how they will be paid for. Even if we did have more cops, though, it's hard to see how either of these two crimes would have been prevented. Unfortunately, there are going to be murders in Minneapolis, and they will all be senseless. We should do what we can to make the city as safe as possible, but panicking is not the answer.


At 1:29 PM, April 07, 2006, Blogger Douglas Hester said...

We agree on this one. Public property is by definition available to everyone, you can't stop and search passerby. There will always be screwballs and truly evil people loose, that's why I possess a carry permit. The role of the police is to investigate and solve crimes, not protect you the individual. The latest Supreme Court case affirming this is Castle Rock v. Gonzales.


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