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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Late Wednesday night, and it's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner. Today, she is once again harping on crime. And unsurprisingly, she doesn't let reality get in the way of her preconceived notions.

Wingnuttia Level: 7 (My head hurts...)

Most of the article is about a group of North Minneapolis residents taking action themselves against crime in their neighborhoods. And good for them. Reductions in the size of the police force due to state-level budget cuts means that there are fewer cops on the streets looking for criminals. Inevitably, this means that there will be more crime. Instead of waiting around for somebody else to fix the problem, they are taking good first steps. Minneapolis definitely needs more cops, but neighborhood involvement is crucial as well.

So what's the problem? Kersten sure likes to make things sound horrible. She actually visited the neighborhood (will wonders never cease?) and had this to say: "I expected to retreat into someone's living room, glancing around uneasily for a kitchen table to dive under if shots were fired. I gulped when my hosts invited me to join them outside."

How thoughtful. North Minneapolis is a place where most of the people are law-abiding. It is not the inside of a prison. It is not Iraq outside of the Green Zone. Although I'm not surprised that Kersten sounded scared silly to be outside in a neighborhood that TV newscasters make out to be a cesspool full of bodies. People are actually living in their neighborhoods to prove to the criminals that it's not their playground, and it tends to work. Going into North Minneapolis is not a death sentence.

She also harps on drug dealers getting out of jail immediately for what, the second kolumn out of the last three? She seems to be particularly obsessed with the War on Drugs. Despite what others may think, I don't believe it's a good use of money to jail small-time dealers for long periods of time. That prison space can be better put to use housing the dangerous criminals. I get a lot more upset when I hear that somebody with two or three assaults or robberies is getting out of jail quickly, or even repeat drunk drivers, than I do when I hear that drug dealers aren't getting stiff sentences.

Minneapolis faces a number of problems on the crime front, but they are not impossible to fix. One thing that would go a long way would be to stop painting Minneapolis as a crime-riddled wasteland in the media. That way, these block clubs who are trying to take back neighborhoods will find it easier to coax others out into the open, and get the criminal off of the streets.


At 12:28 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger Da Man said...

Reductions in the size of the police force due to state-level budget cuts means that there are fewer cops on the streets looking for criminals.

Where I live, the local police is funded by local taxes, and the state police is funded at the state-level. Other entities, such as transit police, are funded by those who take public transit.

At 12:46 PM, June 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live in North Minneapolis. Have you ever even been here?

Last fall, the city installed really nice new bike paths up here. I like them, but the old ones worked fine too. Was it Tim Pawlenty's decision to spend Minneapolis city money on new bike paths instead of fully funding the police department?

And for several years, I have frequently heard gunshots echoing from blocks away when I go running on that bike path in the evening. And now you tell me happy talk about how Kersten is just trying to scare the readers and how things really aren't that bad. You sir, are not credible.

Of course most of the people in North Minneapolis are law abiding. Most people are everywhere. But if you have but ONE bad house on a block where scofflaws live (and many blocks have many more than one problem) the law abiding people are forced to alter their daily living patterns to accomodate the lawless. Or, if they get enough money, those law abiding people just move away. It's hard enough living life and raising a family without having to alter your daily living pattern to accomodate lawbreakers.

I live in a city where the full staffing of a police force and the control of crime is not a top priority. You are allowing your hatred for Katherine Kersten to blind you to reality.

At 3:21 PM, June 22, 2006, Blogger MN Politics Guru said...

Yes, I have been to North Minneapolis. In fact, I use those bike trails all the time. I wish they would replace the trails in NE Minneapolis, but that is another issue entirely.

I have never heard gunshots when in North Minneapolis. In fact, I have been living in Minneapolis for about seven of the past ten years, and not once have I heard definitive gunshots. Firecrackers around July 4th, yes. But no gunshots. I've never really seen any crime at all. I've experienced theft personally several times, but never seen a crime.

The only time I have really seen a crime is when I lived in St. Paul and saw a bunch of young people take a baseball bat to a car full of other young people. That's about it.

At 9:43 PM, June 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You totally ignored my point about Tim Pawlenty having nothing to do with the decision to prioritize the upgrading of bike paths when the Mpls. Police Dept. is understaffed, so I'm assuming that you're conceding the point.

I'm glad you have at least some experience with North Minneapolis. However, because you seem so willing to spew empty bromides about how safe you think this part of town really is, I issue you a challenge. Next Friday night (or another evening if you have a time conflict) at around 7:30 P.M., catch the northbound #5 bus at the corner of 7th and Hennepin. Make sure you get there early so you have to wait at the bus stop with your fellow bus riders for a long time. Then, ride the #5 up to the corner of 39th and Fremont. Then, on foot, wander eastward through the neighborhoods until you get to Lyndale Ave. Next, follow Lyndale south until you get to Lowry Ave. Lowry is all torn up right now, so if the sidewalks are under construction, you should go one block on either side of Lowry and walk west until you get to Penn Ave. Feel free to explore any of the side streets you might find interesting. Then follow Penn down to 26th Avenue North and head west from there. Again, don't hestitate to explore the side streets along 26th. Follow 26th until you get to Farview Park, at Lyndale again. Then, you'll go down Lyndale until you get to Broadway and follow Broadway west until you get back to Fremont where you will be able to catch the #5 back downtown. The whole junket should take about three hours. As the days are long in late June, you'll only be walking in the dark for the last hour or so.

I had thought about detailing for you a number of crime and personal safety stories from people I know who live near where you'll have to walk on your journey, but since you've already decided that Katherine Kersten is exaggerating about these neighborhoods, I'm sure you'll walk these streets in the evening without any trepidation.

BTW, I stated that I hear gunshots "frequently" when I'm on the bike paths in the evening. I would estimate that this was about four to six times last summer, which I consider to be "frequent". However, I know people who live near the intersection of 35th and Penn, where one of the city's most recent homicides occured. I am informed that "frequently" down there means much more often than a handful of times per summer (and yes, they know the difference between gunshots and firecrackers). In fact, when shots are fired, the police are called, and, as there usually is no one hurt, they basically do nothing. If they round up any of the potential suspects from the groups of young men that are milling around, there is a significant chance they will be accused of harassment or misconduct. Also, the police find that if they do arrest any of these young men for any tangible offense (drug dealing, etc.), the county courts system basically cycles the offenders back out onto the streets within days. As the police are understaffed, they often just ignore the "small" stuff because they figure they have bigger criminal fish to fry and only limited time and resources to do so. So the groups of young men that congregate on the street corners keep on doing what they're doing without much interference from anyone. The law abiding homeowners who live nearby (and that is almost all of the residents) basically just seal up their houses and yards as best they can with fences and alarm systems and dogs, fully insure everything in their houses with theft coverage, befriend their neighbors as best they can, strictly monitor and control where their kids are at ALL times, and hope that they don't end up on the wrong side of one of those stray bullets. It's not an incessant problem for every block and the residents certainly don't spend all day hiding in their homes, but if they let down their guard, they might get hurt.

Also, to get the full experience of what it's like to live in North Minneapolis, make sure you don't avoid any of the groups of young men you'll come upon on your walk. Most of them are NOT bad kids, so please don't assume that they are. But the people that live there don't have a choice in the matter and the city doesn't appear interested in doing anything meaningful about it, so don't avoid anyone. Oh, and make sure you walk alone, because many of the residents of these areas don't have any choice in that matter either.

But I'm glad you enjoy the new bike paths. I'm sure Mayor Rybak and his allies are very proud of them and all the other programs he has placed a higher priority on than crime control.

Now, I'm going out on those bike paths myelf to run.

I hope I don't get shot.

At 4:55 PM, June 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I officially withdraw my challenge to you. Had you followed the route and schedule I recommended for your tour of North Minneapolis, and had you done it on the very night I posted it, and not next Friday as I suggested, there is a very good chance that you would have actually witnessed Minneapolis' homicide #29 of 2006.


It sort of freaked me out when I read this, so please don't follow my suggested route, it's not worth the risk to your safety.

But please realize when you diminish the seriousness of the situation up here, whether to score perceived political points against Gov. Pawlenty, or to reinforce your grudge against Katherine Kersten, you are only hurting the many decent people who live up here and have to deal with this lawlessness on a day to day basis.

The Rybak adminsitration has not made policing and crime control its top priority in Minneapolis. There have been dire consequences to the lives of many ordinary people because of that decision.

At 6:59 PM, July 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're an idiot. Are you Kathy Kersten? I live right in the middle of that 6 mile wide radius you just described. I haven't been shot yet- knock on wood! I frequently take the number 5 home from downtown, usually after dark- gasp! The scariest thing that ever happened to me was being hit on by a drunk homeless woman. Peace.


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