This afternoon I joined with Chief Harteau for a press conference at First Precinct headquarters regarding the shootings that took place early this morning downtown. Here are my remarks:
This morning’s shootings in downtown Minneapolis are unacceptable. This is not who we are as a city. Gun violence anywhere in this city is unacceptable—it’s unacceptable on the north side and it is unacceptable downtown.
I have spent a lot of time downtown, in the Warehouse District, and on Hennepin Avenue. I have spent time talking to business owners, business leaders, youth workers, police officers, and people on the street. I have spent time walking around at different times of day to see for myself what is going on. From this, I know that two things are true.
First, around this city people are coming together, they are picking fights and settling disputes with one another: too often violently, too often with guns and too often downtown. We saw this last night.
Gun violence anywhere in this city is unacceptable and I am sick of it.
We as a city have been responding in a number of ways.
Because we know that a relatively small number of people are responsible for a good deal of the violence happening in this city, I have built a collaboration of officials from all levels of government — city, county, and state — to start a Group Violence Intervention initiative. It will call in the offenders who are at the highest risk of perpetrating violence; offer them every resource they need to redirect their lives productively, and hold them accountable if they do not. It will begin later this year. We have won a $250,000 grant for it from the Department of Justice, and I have proposed an additional $290,000 in the 2017 budget to keep it moving forward.
We have been in close collaboration for about a year with business, on a Hospitality Zone project that will transform the night-time experience of downtown and the Warehouse District. We will soon be putting into place a first step of that project, a nighttime mobility management plan that, by moving vehicles and people more effectively through downtown at night, will increase safety for everyone.
We know that the solutions to the violence that we experience are not all about law enforcement. It is an important tool but it is a limited tool for dealing with violence.
I want to thank Chief Harteau, I want to thank our officers for their great work in making sure that we are implementing our law enforcement tools effectively to deal with violence. And we are deploying our law enforcement tools and we will keep deploying our law enforcement tools to manage violence, to end violence, to prevent violence throughout the city and downtown. Chief Harteau will speak of this in more detail.
I will say that nearly 60 new officers are in training right now and will be on the streets by the end of the year. I have also proposed raising the authorized strength of the Police Department by 15 new officers next year, specifically in order to do the kind of community policing that leads to long-term violence reduction and crime prevention.
It’s also true that downtown Minneapolis is a thriving, vibrant, and safe place. Tens of thousands of people come here every single day to work, eat, shop, and enjoy themselves. They come from every city in our region, every country in the world, and every neighborhood in Minneapolis — and all are welcome. They come downtown because all of us — businesses, workers, officers, residents — work hard to welcome them and create a safe, entertaining, and productive environment for them, and for everyone. Downtown belongs to all of us.
And I will say a word again about illegal guns in our city: there are too many of them. As a result, disputes that otherwise might be settled with words, fists, or less lethal weapons are instead routinely settled with guns.
If there weren’t a gun, there wouldn’t be a shooting.
I’m fed up with illegal guns and the destruction that they cause. There are many common-sense solutions out there that would curb the unacceptable levels of illegal gun violence that we live with, but powerful forces at the state and national levels continue to block those solutions, no matter how much we all want them. Until this happens, until we can come together at the national and state level for rational policy, Minneapolis and cities like us will be fighting battles that it would be a lot easier to win if those powerful forces that support the status quo weren’t arrayed against us and our residents.
We all have the responsibility to work together — police, business, government, and community — to keep downtown safe, to set and enforce standards of acceptable behavior, and to keep our entire city safe, both immediately and in the long-term. You can see that up here we are resolved and determined to do so.