The Nice Guy Finishes First

Phillips Partnership Honors Officer Jason Okerberg of the Chicago-Lake Beat     


Anyone familiar with the Chicago-Lake intersection can testify to the changes that have taken place there over the last several years. Statistics offer the driest version of the story:  Phillips has seen overall yearly decreases in crime for some time now, with Chicago-Lake outperforming much of the sector. But the livelier, more interesting tale emerges at the corner itself, where low-octane criminality and rampant hanging out have been replaced with calm, purposeful bustle and flourishing economic development.  

One of the most visible agents of this change has been the Chicago-Lake beat patrol, a team of officers specially selected by the Precinct commander to engage in high-contact, community-minded policing at and around the intersection. Recently, the Phillips Partnership awarded a Public Safety Award to one of the beat’s own, Officer Jason Okerberg, who has logged nearly five years at Chicago-Lake. Okerberg is only one of scores of people whose hard work and vigilance have led to the neighborhood-wide reduction in crime in recent years. But in many ways, he typifies the qualities that have led to that success:  a belief in the importance of collaboration between the police, businesses and residents; an unshakeable commitment to the neighborhood; and respect for everyone he encounters, from his fellow officers to residents and business owners, and even including the area’s chronic offenders.  

As Okerberg describes it, working the beat means connecting with people in the businesses and on the streets.  “It’s not like a 911 car,” he explains.  “We do backup on domestic calls, but we’re pretty much here for the businesses and the neighborhood, and to keep close tabs on the people who are chronic offenders.” To accomplish that, beat officers spend a fair amount of time hitting the pavement. “That sometimes surprises people, when they see a uniform walking around at Abbott or the Global Market, and that’s a good thing,” he says.

For Okerberg, keeping the watch on Chicago-Lake is about much more than earning a paycheck.  “Down here, people know that when I’m here and I’m driving around, this is my neighborhood,” he says.  “I don’t live in the city, but in this little area where I work, I want it to be as safe as it is at my own house.” Yet he is quick to deny that he deserves any special recognition for the improvements at the intersection.  “Things have gotten 100% better at this corner, but it isn’t because of me,” he says. Inspector Lucy Gerold, who commands the Third Precinct, says that Okerberg deserves more credit than he'd ever take.   "Jason is always quick to deflect any recognition or praise for his work," she says.  "While it does take lots of partners to keep the area safe, at the core is Jason; we have to give lots of credit to 'Oky’s' leadership, commitment, positive attitude and high quality work.  It all radiates from him." 

Meanwhile, in typically modest fashion, Okerberg cites the presence of the Safety Center, the cameras, and dedicated police work as key ingredients to the success.  He also gives tremendous credit to the perseverance of area businesses and residents who have worked long and hard to make the neighborhood a safer place. “We have a really good community right here in the Phillips neighborhood,” he says.  “The grassroots [efforts], with people just trying and trying, and trying again to make things work . . .  have gotten much stronger and better here over the years.”    

Perhaps because of this, Okerberg recognizes that earning and keeping the neighborhood’s trust is a critical part of his job as a beat cop. “The neighbors and the business owners here are the best resource for helping us out, because they see things that we don’t see,” he explains. “So as long as I can help people to feel that they can come up to us and aren’t afraid, that’s a very big thing.” His approach to patrol work is as direct and forthright as Okerberg himself.  “Until you find out that someone has negative intentions, you just treat them with respect and you try to talk to them,” he explains.  “And you know, people like to talk, so you just have to let them, and be a good listener.”

That philosophy, coupled with his work ethic and his consistently good arrest records, have led to some very high regard for Okerberg within the force. The ribbing that his colleagues dish out might suggest otherwise, but he is one of the best-liked and well-respected officers on the beat.  Renee Allen, CPS of the Midtown Safety Center, attributes that to his essential decency.  “Jason is as shy as a stray cat about acknowledging his work, but he is a very kind and caring individual who is also a dedicated MPD officer,” says Allen. “Basically speaking, he is one of the good guys.” Chicago-Lake business owners also give him universally glowing reviews.  Tom White of Butler Check Cashing, 827 E. Lake Street, calls Okerberg a credit to the police department. “He’s extremely fair, and very honest, and I trust him a lot,” says White.  “He always handles things completely.  If somebody has done something and it warrants an arrest, he does it, but he always treats people fairly. I think even the bad guys like him, or at least they know that he’s right.“ 

With the recent quiet at Chicago-Lake, Okerberg’s patrol duties have now expanded to include other parts of the Precinct. Still, it’s clear that the presence of officers like him will remain an important part of keeping the intersection safe.  “I just ran into five guys I used to address all the time a few years ago,” Okerberg recalls.  “When my partner and I asked what they were doing, they said, ‘Hey, we’re just getting on a bus, Oky, and we’re out of here!’”

As for the future, Okerberg says that, while he’s open to possibilities, he likes being a patrolman and still enjoys coming to work each day.  “Most people probably would say that sometimes I’m a little too excited to be here,” he says with a laugh, “but it is very nice because every day is different and a challenge. And every day I have the chance to meet people and hopefully help them out.”

Meet Paula Kruchowski, Third Precinct Community Attorney


Last fall, Paula Kruchowski joined the Third Precinct as its Community Attorney, and she is already earning high marks for her energetic commitment to  prosecuting livability crimes and her obvious dedication to including the community in that effort.  Born in Duluth and raised in Chisholm, Kruchowski lives in the Third Precinct’s Keewaydin neighborhood.   She attended the University of Minnesota - Duluth, where she graduated with a degree  in Criminology and double minors in Psychology and Sociology.  She earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.    

Kruchowski began her career in criminal law while still in law school, working for the Minnesota State Public

Defender’s Office as a certified student attorney and handling felony criminal appeals for Minnesota inmates.  Realizing that she preferred prosecution, she joined the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office after law school, and has now been part of the city’s team of prosecutors for nearly a decade.  We recently sat down with Kruchowski to learn more about her approach to community prosecution in the Phillips neighborhood.  


What drew you to criminal prosecution?  

Criminal law is extremely interesting.  I have always had an interest in why people do what they do.  And, because of the human element involved, no two cases are ever the same.  


How does a Community Attorney’s role differ from that of a County Attorney?  What does the Community Attorney bring to the mix? 

The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has jurisdiction to prosecute juvenile and            adult felony offenses and some select gross misdemeanor and misdemeanor offenses.  On the other hand, my office’s jurisdiction extends to the prosecution of petty misdemeanor, misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses, most of which are livability offenses. 

The Community Attorney program in my office was established because the office understands that livability crime seriously affects neighborhoods, demoralizes residents, hurts businesses and can lead to the deterioration of the community.  My location in the precinct allows me to interact with community members, local businesses, law enforcement agencies, the courts and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to better address neighborhood issues.


What elements do you believe are critical to forging a strong, three-way partnership between the community, the police, and prosecutors?   As Community Attorney, what steps have you taken, or plan to take, to achieve them?

Building relationships and communication amongst law enforcement, the police and the prosecutors’ offices is essential.  The right hand has to know what the left hand is doing.  Since I’ve been at the precinct, I’ve made it a point to make as many contacts as possible and to try to establish relationships where they had not existed before and to build stronger relationships with the community, law enforcement and other agencies.   

A prime example is the strengthening of the relationship between the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office.  When Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman revamped his Community Prosecution team a few months ago, our office began talking to his office about establishing a closer relationship with our respective offices and about how we could work together more effectively.  Recently, the Hennepin County Community Prosecution Team and the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecution Team, of which I am a member, had a very successful meeting to discuss our partnership, and we have since agreed to meet regularly to jointly tackle livability issues.      


Since you took on this job last fall, you have maintained a very busy schedule that includes regular attending a variety of community meetings.   What motivates you to do that, and how does it further your work? 

I do have a very busy schedule.  I regularly attend community meetings, carry a caseload and charge cases arising from arrests made in the Precinct.  But I believe that attending community meetings to listen to concerns about public safety and to work on those issues with the community and the police is essential to successful community crime prevention.  If it weren’t for the community, I wouldn’t have half the information I do about what’s going on in the neighborhoods.  Also, the community needs to be educated on public safety issues and they need to know whom to contact if issues arise.  It’s part of my job to be their resource.   


If you could magically change one thing about the criminal justice system’s approach to low-level offenders, what would it be?

It would be the perception that there are really no victims of livability crimes.  That perception is already changing, though.  When I first started as a prosecutor, if I made a stiff offer on a livability offense, I would often get opposition from both the bench and defense counsel.  Now, because of my office’s focus on livability offenses, we don’t get that reaction as much anymore.  The bench and the defense bar are getting used to seeing community impact statements in our files and our requests for geographic restrictions for some of the worst livability offenders in the city.  With community impact statements, we’ve been able to provide direct “testimony” from the community about how the offenders disrupt their neighborhoods, and so we can make the arguments that community members are victims of these offenses.  It’s pretty compelling when you have an impact statement that describes how a resident can’t walk his child to school without seeing prostitutes at the bus stops looking for business, or how a mom finds discarded drug paraphernalia in her child’s sandbox in their backyard.    


What’s the most difficult part of your job?  The best?  

The most difficult part of my job is finding enough hours in the day to accomplish everything.  I am extremely busy with court appearances, community meetings, roll call trainings, case development, and project development.  I’m also a member of my office’s criminal appeals team, so I have additional duties there as well.  But the variety I encounter in this job is amazing.  I’m allowed to be creative in developing innovative strategies to reduce and prevent crime in the neighborhoods.  I can help the officers develop strong cases for charging.  I put myself out there in the community to gain information and to offer assistance to community members.  It’s never, ever boring.


What do you consider the key factors in improving the vitality of the Phillips neighborhood?  

There are three things that come to mind when I think of improving the Phillips neighborhood:  economic development, neighborhood engagement, and cooperation.  Two great examples of economic development are the redevelopment of the Midtown Exchange building and the development of the Franklin Avenue corridor.  Since those sites have been redeveloped, crime has decreased.  An important part of revitalizing the Phillips neighborhood is to make it an attractive neighborhood to establish businesses, and to make sure it is safe enough to attract customers.   

I am hopeful that in the near future the neighborhood is going to become a more and more appealing place to live and work.  The Phillips neighborhood has so much energy, and the people here are wonderful.  They deserve good businesses in their neighborhoods and they need to feel safe walking to the corner store or the bakery .  I would love to see people moving into the vacant houses and start remodeling them, and  to see more economic development in the neighborhood.  Those two things are dependent on the safety of the neighborhood, but by building and maintaining strong relationships with the police and the prosecution, the community can help prevent crime in their neighborhoods.

Inspector Lucy Gerold Takes Command of the Third Precinct 


When Inspector Lucy Gerold took command of the Third Precinct last fall, it marked a return to home territory for her. Gerold, a lifelong Minneapolis resident, has  deep roots in the Precinct. For the last 13 years, she has lived in Seward, and as a child she lived near Powderhorn Park, where her family had a decidedly different attitude toward safety than she’d recommend today. “When I was young and lived [there], we still left our doors unlocked,” says Gerold, with a rueful laugh. “I can remember the first time we were burglarized--they just came in through an unlocked door and went through my dad’s dresser. ”   After earning her BA in housing and community development at the University of Minnesota, she spent time working on ways to reduce crime through environmental design in various housing projects in the city. In the 1970s, she lived in and served on the board of the nonprofit housing development that eventually became Little Earth. 

But Gerold, who also holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Concordia, says that she always knew she wanted to be a cop. She began her career in law enforcement as a civilian in the late 1970s, working as a crime prevention specialist for the city of Minneapolis. In 1991, she joined the police department’s Community Services Bureau, where she worked with community crime prevention and school programs.   Finally, in 1997, she graduated from the police academy and began to wear a uniform. Since then, she has served as chief deputy/director of four different bureaus and as the commander of the 5th Precinct. 

Policing for and with the community

Given her hybrid background in community development and law enforcement, it is perhaps no surprise that Gerold is a staunch proponent of community policing. Indeed, during the 1980s, she was a key architect of Minneapolis’s first community policing program. Twenty years later, she remains its strong advocate, and readily articulates a clear vision of modern community policing. “I can tell you what it is not:  it is not a program, it is not foot patrol, it is not bike patrols. Those are things that we do, but to me, community policing is how we police,” she says. “It is both philosophical and operational--it means that we see ourselves working in partnership with [the larger community] to create safety and security. ”   

According to Gerold, by embracing community policing, law enforcement acknowledges that the community is an integral part of the process of identifying problems and their solutions. “I think our whole society is moving much more to a collaborate model, and realizing that it really does take all of us with our diversity of ideas, skills and abilities to deal with the complexities of today’s world,” she says.  “Community policing means that we [the police] see ourselves as a partner to collaborate with everyone to create a safe and secure community. Really, it is contemporary policing. ”  

In Gerold’s view, one benefit of this broader definition of “policing” is the expanded universe of resources that naturally follows.   “I think of ‘resources’ as broader than just the cops and crime prevention specialists and others that work for the Third Precinct,” she explains. “’Resources’ include the business community, residents, block leaders, neighborhood associations, churches, Weed and Seed, and the cops. ”  She cites the Precinct’s response to a recent spurt of destructive activity by a group of juveniles along several blocks in East Phillips as a good example of community policing that drew from a broad spectrum of resources. “We met with the block club at the Precinct and asked the community to do a number things; we also had landlords present, because some were housing problem tenants and needed to take action,” says Gerold. “We also asked probation to use some of the resource they have, such as interventions and social services for people who are causing problems. ”  The Precinct also worked with Mad Dads, who patrolled the area and were able to achieve some fence-mending and relationship-building between some of the kids and the adult residents in the wake of the concentrated, institutional intervention. In fact, the neighborhood block club--which had declined to participate in Neighborhood Night Out this year because of the ongoing tension--is now planning a block party to celebrate the changed atmosphere and restored stability.

Gerold describes this kind of opportunity to foster partnerships as one of the greatest satisfactions of her job. “Strong cities, strong communities, and strong neighborhoods are built by the strong partnerships that work to improve them,” she says. “As a precinct commander, [you] can be a bully pulpit . . . to pull all of those resources and partnerships together and to really create effective change. ”  Her belief in a partnership approach also informs her management style inside the station house. During her first few months on the job, she devoted many hours learning about the Precinct and the people who work there. She invited her officers to sit down with her, one-on-one, and talk about what was working and what could be improved. Over 75% of them took her up on the offer, and she says that she not only learned a great deal, but also helped to set the tone for a team approach that the officers can carry out to the community.   

New approaches to old challenges

As for priorities for the Precinct, Gerold plans to continue to support ongoing initiatives such as the Midtown Security Collaborative and the Safety Center, and to maintain a careful and strategic deployment of new technology.   She also has her eye trained on continued reductions in violent crime, and on controlling the kinds of low-level criminality that, left unchecked, can mushroom into problems. Since assuming command, she has redirected the Community Response Team to concentrate on the two biggest livability issues in the neighborhood:   prostitution and street-level drug dealing. “Prostitution is a high priority for me because it has such a negative impact on peoples’ perception of a neighborhood,” she explains. “Prostitutes are usually drug-involved and they attract other unsavory characters, and it has a very negative effect. ”  Like many, she is frustrated by prostitution’s seeming intractability.    “Back when I was a street cop, I worked as the decoy prostitute on 13th and Lake,” she recalls. “Ten years later, nothing seems to have changed and it makes me angry. To some people, this is perceived as a marketplace for prostitution . . . and I want to change that. ”   

With typical thoughtfulness, Gerold recognizes that it is not enough just to publicly announce that the neighborhood won’t tolerate prostitution, even if it’s backed up with vigorous enforcement. "Telling people what a neighborhood is not doesn’t work very well,” she observes. “We have to tell them what it is:  an ethnically diverse, vibrant neighborhood with a great marketplace, where people should want to come. Telling people that will change the image to what we want it to be, and that is what we have to work toward. ” 

Phillips and the future

When asked about her view of Phillips’ future, Gerold is quick to point to the tremendous improvements along Franklin and at Chicago and Lake as an example of the possibilities. “I am heartened by the group of residents—both renters and homeowners--who want to see Phillips be a strong neighborhood, and who work closely through community associations, neighborhood associations, or with us to try to make that happen,” she says. But she is also realistic about the need to develop greater economic diversity in the neighborhood, and notes the pressing need to address housing in East Phillips. “We need to increase the homeownership in East Philips and do something about the housing maintenance and rehab [there] so that there is a sense of pride and ownership,” she says. “If we can do all that, in twenty years, all of Phillips can be a strong community, both ethnically diverse and economically diverse, with a solid business core."

Clean Sweep 2006

Swept up by enthusiasm, Phillips supporters give the neighborhood an instant makeover

Trash collected from Lake Street is put where it belongs!

Trash collected from Lake Street is put where it belongs!

Blessed by some glorious fall weather, a record-setting crowd descended on the Phillips neighborhood on Saturday for this year’s Clean Sweep.  Armed with litter “claws,” green t-shirts, and trademark yellow bags, more than 500 people moved briskly through the neighborhood just ahead of a stiff breeze, picking up an estimated 26,860 pounds of trash and 243 tires over the course of the morning.  Guided by the able and experienced folks at Philips Weed and Seed and supported by a host of sponsors, the affair went off without a hitch.  

The 14th Avenue Block Club, which also does its own trash pickup four times per year, had a crew of 18 people on hand.

The 14th Avenue Block Club, which also does its own trash pickup four times per year, had a crew of 18 people on hand.

As always, this year’s volunteers came from all walks, and included families, block clubs, church and school groups, elected officials, and representatives from area businesses.  Many new faces joined the effort, such as the crew from the National Children’s Theater, which relocated its national office and rehearsal space to 2733 Park Avenue in July.  Thanks to the strong leadership by Little Earth resident and activist Kelly Morgan, the Little Earth Community and other partner Indian organizations also had a strong presence at this year’s Clean Sweep, with many first-time participants.  Among the many other groups represented were:

Young people from the Holy Rosary Youth Group worked along Bloomington Avenue.

Young people from the Holy Rosary Youth Group worked along Bloomington Avenue.

  • 20 young people from the Holy Rosary Youth Group, led by Mike and Maricela Dale.  More than 60 youth and parents from the Latino Baseball League and other Latino neighbors, led by Rosie and Alfonso Cruz.
  • Over 60 Bethlehem Baptist parishioners and Northwestern College students.  
  • More than 40 exchange students from Germany through the Waite House.  Jana Metge reports that on last year’s evaluation, many students listed the Phillips Clean Sweep as their favorite activity during their exchange.
  • Representatives from 26 block clubs.  
  • 2 crews from the Hennepin County Juvenile Sentence to Service
Bolstered by donuts, Ward Eames, Nate Metcalf, Bill Turner, Krista Turner, and Margaret Eames of the National Theater for Children gear up to collect trash.

Bolstered by donuts, Ward Eames, Nate Metcalf, Bill Turner, Krista Turner, and Margaret Eames of the National Theater for Children gear up to collect trash.

As with any undertaking of this size, deep thanks are due to the countless people and organizations who donated time and money to making the Clean Sweep a success.  An all-volunteer committee of 20 people met began meeting weekly in August to plan the event.  Led by coordinator Jana Metge, they included Joyce Krook of Abbott Northwestern Hospital; Joyce Wisdom of the Lake Street Council; Kelly Morgan of the Little Earth Community; Midtown residents Shirley Heyer, Donna Neste, and Ben Pipe; East Phillips residents Brad Pass and Harvey Winje; Phillips West resident Muriel Simmons; Carol Pass of EPIC; Susan Young, Director of Solid Waste and Recycling for Minneapolis; and Bob Hunter of Hennepin County’s Sentence to Serve.

Phillips Partnership chair Peter McLaughlin with one of the event’s organizers, Joyce Wisdom of the Lake Street Council.

Phillips Partnership chair Peter McLaughlin with one of the event’s organizers, Joyce Wisdom of the Lake Street Council.








Financial supporters included:                           

Phillips Weed & Seed                                            

Phillips Partnership                                                

Phillips Energy Co-op                                           

Phillips West Neighborhood Organization         

Wellington Management                                      

Maria's Cafe                                                              

Little Earth Housing Corporation                          



LaSalle Management                                               

Project for Pride in Living                                        

HN Co. American Indian Families Project          

Nayawee Center School                                        

Steps to a Healthier MN                                             

Women of Nations                                                   

Lake Street Council                                                  

Hi-Lake Business Association                              


Chicago/Lake Business Association                   

Mr. Olive Lutheran Church                                      

Ventura Village Neighborhood  


In-kind donations were provided by:   

City of Minneapolis/Solid Waste & Recycling

Bethlehem Baptist Church

Hennepin County Sentence to Service

More Valu Foods

Chicago-Lake Liquor 

Green Institute

Corrie Dougherty

Pillsbury United/Waite House

Kaplan Brothers

American Indian OIC

Midtown Phillips


Franklin Ave. Safety Center/MPD

Midtown Community Safety Center/MPD

Mt. Olive Jobs After School Program

Abbott Northwestern Hospital

Lake Street Council

Women of Nations

Mad Dads/Minneapolis Chapter

MPRB/Stewart Park

Welna Hardware

Dougherty-Thomson Funeral Home

PEACE Coffee

Northern Sun Merchandising












New Initiative Prepares to Take the Bite Out of Crime at Chicago and Lake

With the launch of the new Crime Prevention and Security Collaboration in Midtown, the Third Precinct stands ready to test the old adage about an ounce of prevention.  Aimed at improving public safety at the Chicago and Lake intersection and surrounding area, the Security Collaboration is taking shape under the confident guidance of Renee Allen, CPS for the Midtown Safety Center.  The Phillips Partnership formally endorsed the Security Collaboration initiative at its March meeting, and Partnership staff is helping with the planning effort. 

Security Collaboration is a natural outgrowth of the new Safety Center, located at 2949 Chicago Avenue. Since opening last November, the Safety Center has brought a new brand of police presence to the area, one that is simultaneously stronger and more closely integrated with the community.  The Security Collaboration will build upon this relationship by forming a new coalition between the police department, transit police, area businesses, and the private security firms that they employ.

For a model, the Collaboration is looking to the First Precinct’s Downtown Safe Zone program, an initiative created during the summer of 2005 to tackle real and perceived public safety issues in downtown Minneapolis.  According to Luther Krueger, Crime Prevention Specialist for the First Precinct, the Safe Zone targets one of the more intractable public safety concerns in urban areas:  namely, the role that repeat offenders and their livability crimes play in determining whether people feel safe in their neighborhoods.   Relying on a strong partnership between the police and private security forces, the Safe Zone has seen significantly fewer Part One offenses compared to the rest of the City, and citizens report feeling safer downtown since the program began. 

Chronic offenders commit a similarly skewed proportion of livability crimes in the Phillips neighborhood, and the revitalization around Chicago and Lake has only sharpened attention to the issue.  Two years ago, the Third Precinct instituted C.L.E.A.N. (Citizens’ Law Enforcement Action Network), a joint venture between police and citizens to target chronic offenders in Phillips.  The numbers readily illustrate the challenge they faced:  at C.L.E.A.N.’s outset, the program identified 34 chronic offenders, who collectively accounted for an astounding 2,091 police contacts.  

The Crime Prevention and Security Collaboration will build upon the work of C.L.E.A.N. by inviting Midtown businesses and their private security forces to actively engage in both new and ongoing crime prevention efforts.  Although final details are still in the works, the Collaboration’s multi-faceted approach will include measures designed to reduce both serious crime and the sorts of low-level offenses that undermine perceptions of public safety.  “As the Chicago-Lake area continues its unprecedented revitalization, we want to make sure that it stays a safe environment for businesses, employees, and residents,” says Inspector Scott Gerlicher of the Third Precinct.  “The Collaboration is part of a broad effort to proactively address small issues before they become large ones.”  


Building a Collaborative Workgroup

As its name suggests, the Security Collaboration will bring together law enforcement and the private sector to make Midtown safer and more livable  “The police obviously have a huge role to play, but we also need to actively engage the businesses and their private security forces,” says Renee Allen.  “My hope is that we can pull together a working group of transit police, Third Precinct officers, probation officers, local business owners and their private security personnel, and city and county attorneys.”  This group would meet monthly to discuss common issues, and to identify repeat offenders known to cause problems at different places in the community.  “Our first few meetings would probably revolve around sharing information, and brainstorming about the crime prevention needs and different ways to address them,” explains Allen.  “Creating relationships between the different parties is the necessary starting place, and everything else will build from that.”  


Spreading the Word

As part of the plan, the Safety Center will begin issuing a regular e-mail dispatch that provides current crime statistics, updates on chronic offenders, safety tips, and announcements of upcoming community meetings and events related to crime and safety.  Because the Chicago-Lake area remains a traditional neighborhood, with many small businesses that are not necessarily wired for digital communication, the personal, door-to-door approach will also play its part.  As Renee Allen describes it, the goal is to send information through the concentric relationships that already exist between different community members.  “For effective crime prevention, information needs to move from private security personnel and business owners, to the police, to community members at large, much like ripples in the water,” she says. “The Security Collaboration is the rock that we will throw out to make that happen.”  


Sharing Resources  

The Collaboration’s plan also calls for greater direct information sharing between police and private security about criminal activity through the Common Radio Link, a dedicated, 900 megahertz police radio channel.  Abbott Northwestern Hospital and the Midtown Exchange’s security team are the only area businesses presently using the Common Radio Link, but the Collaboration will encourage widespread implementation over the coming months.  This simple and cost-effective strategy can result in higher apprehension and conviction rates, while promoting greater cooperation between the police and privacy security personnel.


Harnessing Technology

The Collaboration will support efforts to install a network of wireless cameras at key business node intersections.  Monitored by the Third Precinct, these cameras could be capable of zooming in on license plates or inside cars and tracking someone for up to three blocks, depending on the type of camera installed.  According to Renee Allen, if tilt-pan-zoom cameras are used, they could eventually be tied into “shot spotters,” or gunfire detection systems.   Not only can these devices discern the sound of gunshot, but they can identify the type of weapon used and pinpoint where the shot was fired using a built-in GPS system.  “When used in conjunction with a wireless camera,” Allen says, “this technology can literally catch someone with a smoking gun.” Inspector Scott Gerlicher has begun working on this camera initiative, and is exploring funding possibilities.


Expanding the Court Watch Program

People in a community start to feel unsafe when they see someone engaged in the same low-level criminality time and again, but have no way to voice their concerns or see them addressed by law enforcement.  A working mechanism to funnel these complaints to the criminal justice system can lead to criminal convictions or diversions to chemical dependency or mental health care programs that simply would not have otherwise happened.   To achieve this, the Security Collaboration includes plans for the Midtown Safety Center to formalize and expand the Court Watch efforts already underway through the neighborhood’s CCPI program.  Renee Allen plans an outreach effort to involve Lake Street businesses in Court Watch, and to solicit their written impact statements.  “Whether it’s residents, or employees of local businesses, everyone sees the same offenders,” says Allen.  “We want to communicate to residents, the security companies and the businesses that if these people are affecting your life or your business, the judge needs to know about it.”  


Partnerships Are Key

As Renee Allen sees it, the Collaboration’s success will boil down to its ability to build meaningful working partnerships with area businesses and their private security forces.  “As Crime Prevention Specialists, we know that establishing relationships across an entire community is key to successful crime prevention,” she says.  “To achieve that, people have to step outside their regular boundaries, and understand that policing their own front yards has a broader community impact.  By going a little bit beyond that guard desk and reporting criminal activity to the police, private security forces can have a tremendous effect.  This is especially true in a place like Chicago-Lake, which has so many security companies in such a small area.”  

CPS Luther Krueger agrees, citing the experience of the Safe Zone program.  “We have about 70 police officers serving downtown, but there are over 1,000 private security officers working for downtown businesses,” he says.  “Enlisting the help of private security 

personnel only makes sense, given these numbers.”   Jana Metge, Chair of the Phillips Weed and Seed, points to the practical necessity of pooling crime prevention resources in Midtown.  “In the current climate of stretched public funding, it’s vital that we coordinate existing capacity wherever possible,” she notes.  Metge's prediction about the Security Collaboration's likely success is especially rosy, given her high regard for its leadership.  "I can't say enough about Renee Allen's energy and ability," Metge says.  "The neighborhood is certainly fortunate to have her at the helm of this effort."  

Alan Goldbloom, MD, President and CEO of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, views the Collaboration as a vital step in promoting ongoing economic development and enhanced livability in the neighborhood.  “Safety is obviously a critical concern not just for area residents, but for employees and visitors to the neighborhood,” he says.  “Even in this early phase, the plan represents great progress, and underscores how the presence of the Safety Center and the commitment to public safety that it represents are such tremendous advantages for everyone in this community.” 

Meet Crime Prevention Specialist Renee Allen

Longtime dedication to public safety culminates in work at Midtown Safety Center


February 23, 2006—Renee Allen may be new to South Minneapolis but she’s no stranger to the challenges of involving the community in improving public safety. More than a decade ago, the mother of two left a suburban lifestyle in Coon Rapids for the McKinley neighborhood on Minneapolis’ north side. She wanted to fix up an old house and expose her kids to the kind of tight-knit neighborhood life she’d experienced growing up in St. Paul. What she encountered flew beyond her expectations.

"When we moved in 12 years ago it was a trial by fire," said Allen. “The crime was terrible, but there was a core of people who really cared enough to take action.” 

Allen became involved with the neighborhood association and helped establish the police substation at Lowry-Emerson that became the model for the Franklin Ave. Safety Center. She went back to school and graduated in 2003 with a degree in law enforcement. She also trained as an EMT. 

Now, as the civilian Crime Prevention Specialist who staffs the Midtown Safety Center for the Minneapolis Police Department, Allen says she has caught the spirit of South Minneapolis in a big way.

"It's so exciting to be a part of the neighborhood's success. You see more and more signs of progress, and you know it will really flourish. It's wonderful."

What’s more, says Allen, contributing to public safety at Chicago-Lake has become a family affair. One of her sons has begun work as a security guard at the Midtown Exchange while he completes the application process for the Minneapolis Fire Department.


Interview with Renee Allen 

PP: What is your background as a Crime Prevention Specialist?

RA: I began community involvement a little more than 12 years ago when I moved back to the inner city and into the McKinley neighborhood of North Minneapolis. As a representative of McKinley, I was involved in the opening of the Lowry Emerson Police Substation (which later became a model for the Franklin Ave Safety Center and subsequently the Midtown Safety Center).

I managed the substation as an MPD Program Assistant, serving the needs of five north-side neighborhoods. My responsibilities included recruiting, training and coordinating a broad base of volunteers for large community outreach events that were planned and implemented through the substation. It functioned as a referral resource for the community and was successful in developing programs and opportunities for positive interaction between police and community.

Once I became a Crime Prevention Specialist in the SAFE unit, I worked in the Jordan neighborhood with my sworn police partner along with community residents and neighborhood leaders. Our efforts were coordinated with other city departments and social service agencies to address livability and safety in a diverse and challenged part of the city.

I am a registered EMT and have a degree in Law Enforcement. Other training includes MPD bicycle certification; mediation/conflict resolution; diversity; CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design); physical violence (elder abuse, schools and sexual violence, strangulation and domestic violence); restorative justice; and community empowerment. 


PP: Describe a typical week's activity at the Midtown Safety Center

RA: I guess that’s what I like most about working with the community for the Police Department. There isn’t a typical day. There are so many elements that can change the make-up of any given week. Having spent so many years on the north side, one of my biggest challenges is learning names, faces and the lay of the land on the south side. I am attending as many outside meetings as my time will allow to simply meet people and learn about the tremendous amount of work that has already been done here.

Squads [police officers] are in and out of Safety Center a dozen times a day to look up information, write reports or take breaks. There will be more activity be in a couple weeks when the first of two county probation officers moves in. When police and probation have this common venue, they can communicate much better about chronic offenders and overall enforcement will be more effective as a result.

I’m attending Chi-Lake Business Association meetings and see a lot of several of the local business owners -- Roberts Shoes, Sunny's, Chicago Lake Florist. Mark Simon of Roberts Shoes has mentioned he has seen a positive difference with the increased police presence. 

Currently the meeting room is being used a few times a week by members of the community – block clubs, planning committees and involvement groups. I would like to see that number significantly increase. I consider my position at the Midtown Safety Center as very special and unique. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to interact with the community on a more casual level. The Safety Center is such a warm and welcoming space. The police officers are comfortable here, probation officers will be moving in soon, and each week the number of people stopping in is increasing. Personal interaction is a key component. The success of this facility will continue to be built on communication, cooperation and collaboration from all involved in its creation and subsequent programming and outreach. I enjoy coming to work, but would love to go home in the evening and say, “Wow, did I have a busy day!”


PP: Describe an instance that you feel best represents the benefit of the Safety Center to the Chi-Lake community.

RA: I am sure there will be many stories with significant human-interest drama as the history of the Safety Center grows. This is Lake and Chicago, one of the busiest, most diverse intersections in the city. Purely by location alone, the Safety Center will have a position and impact in those stories. But the benefit of the Safety Center is revealed more in the small, seemingly unremarkable incidents that are addressed on a daily basis. It may be the elderly gentleman that just needed a place to sit for a few minutes before continuing his trek home, someone that missed a meeting but still wanted the materials covered the night before, a young girl just needing to use the phone because she missed her ride, a woman needing directions or a copy of a police report, a frustrated father that just wanted to talk to an officer for a minute about his rebellious teen or members of the community coming together for a block club meeting. These are the pieces that really only benefit that one person, at that one time, but when assembled as a whole, is significant to the Chi-Lake community, because it is the community.


PP: What changes or improvements are you looking forward to in terms of the Safety Center's function and community relations?

RA: We recently assembled a stellar group of community people to form our advisory council and represent the diverse population in the Safety Center’s service area. This group will help decide the direction for the outreach and programming of the Safety Center. My personal hope is that we focus on our young people. We can envision and work toward great things for this community but if we do not include the next generation and also learn what their concerns and ideas are, we are missing the point. Our future is theirs. The connection between youth and the police is also so very fragile and distrustful. I’d like to see every effort made to strengthen and foster a positive relationship with our young community. I am looking forward to the Safety Center being recognized by the whole community (residents of all ages, visitors, businesses and corporations) as a destination point. I really want to promote the idea of police and community coming together to address common goals in a comfortable, relaxed and non-threatening environment.


PP: What would you like people to know about the Safety Center that they many not know?

RA: We are here and available. You don’t need to have a problem to stop in. If you do have a question or concern, I will do my best to find an answer or solution, and if I can’t, I will help locate someone who can. We also have Latino and Somali Crime Prevention Specialists on staff to help overcome cultural and language barriers. All are welcome at the Midtown Safety Center; we are located at 2949 Chicago Ave. and our phone number is 612-825-6138.

Midtown Safety Center Advisory Council

Current membership:

Del Holmes - Midtown Phillips neighborhood resident

Mr. and Mrs Scarver - Central neighborhood resident 

Shirley Heyer - Midtown Phillips neighborhood resident 

Verge Granger - West Phillips resident 

Tiffany Green/Robert Lilligren - Ward 6, Minneapolis City Council

Patricia Brown - Midtown Global Market
Inspector Scott Gerlicher - MPD
Lieutenant Sally Weddel - MPD

John Reed - Crime Prevention Specialist for Latino Community 

Shirlee Stone/Carla Nielson - Franklin Safety Center/AINDC

Craig Vos/Simeon Wagner - Hennepin County Probation

Therese Rau - Hennepin County Probation

Mick Sandin - Hennepin County Probation

Jamal James - Circle of Disipline

Amy Reise - Katahdin
Sheryl Kabat - Central Weed and Seed
Jana Metge - Phillips Weed and Seed
Elena Gaarder - Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association

Jose Diaz - Latino Economic Development Center
Joyce Wisdom - Lake Street Council

Susie Helget - Phillips Partnership

For  more information, contact Crime Prevention Specialist Renee Allen at 612-825-6138.

2005 Crime Statistics for the Third Precinct

2005 Crime Statistics
Third Precinct, Minneapolis

Despite a rash of killings in the summer months, the Third Precinct’s murder rate continued to fall in 2005. Narcotics and arson were also significantly down. This year saw an increase in larceny, robberies and assault. Other categories of crime incidents, both Part 1 and Part 2 offenses, roughly matched last year's numbers. Overall, crime incidents in the precinct rose by 4.5 percent for the year. Compared with city-wide numbers, the Third Precinct fared well. Other precincts report overall crime incidents up between 14 and 31 percent. 

At the January 2006 meeting of the Community Crime Prevention Initiative, Crime Prevention Specialist Donald Greely presented the following statistics tracking crime trends in the Third Precinct. 

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Phillps Partnership has organized the Community Crime Prevention Initiative since 1998. This group of neighborhood residents and employees meets monthly at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. For more information, call Susie Helget at 612-344-1400.

Midtown Safety Center Opens with Community Celebration

The Midtown Community Safety Center
2949 Chicago Ave. South

The Midtown Community Safety Center is the newest success in the redevelopment of the Lake Street corridor, and will serve as a critical component in the economic development strategy of surrounding neighborhoods.

Centrally located at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, the Center will serve as a focal point for the safety and security of the entire area, encompassing the Central, East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Phillips West, and Powderhorn neighborhoods. The location offers easy access; gives support to local businesses, as well as an opportunity to better know officers; and will serve to connect residents and police in an inviting and non-threatening environment.

Because the Midtown Community Safety Center has been constructed with an emphasis on people, a large community room is available where neighbors can come together to work on common issues and public policy. Community members can access impact statements, participate in the Lake Street Court Watch, or gather information about crime prevention and intervention services important to them. Indeed, the Safety Center, with its full time staff, is a valuable resource for anyone living, working, or otherwise enjoying the advantages of our communities.

Eagerly anticipated by the five core communities it will serve, the Midtown Community Safety Center promises to be a hub for connecting police and community in meaningful and energizing ways. We have been honored to be a part of this effort, and are proud to present the results to you today as a shining example of what any committed group of people can do when they work together. Thank you for your support.


The Design Team of the Midtown Community Safety Center

  • 6th Ward City Council Office 
  • 8th Ward City Council Office 
  • 9th Ward City Council Office 
  • African Development Center 
  • American Indian Development Corporation 
  • Central Weed and Seed Initiative 
  • East Phillips Improvement Coalition 
  • Hennepin County 
  • Lake Street Council 
  • Midtown Community Works Partnership 
  • Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association, Inc. 
  • Minneapolis Police Department, 3rd Precinct 
  • Peter Boosalis 
  • Phillips Weed and Seed Initiative 
  • Phillips West Neighborhood Organization 
  • Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association

Funding Partners

  • Allina Hospitals and Clinics 
  • Central Weed and Seed Initiative 
  • City of Minneapolis Community Planning and Economic Development 
  • The Empowerment Zone 
  • Hennepin County 
  • John Wolf, Chicago Lake Liquor 
  • The Neighborhood Revitalization Program 
  • Payne Lake Community Partners 
  • The Perlman Foundation 
  • Phillips Weed and Seed Initiative 
  • Phillips West Neighborhood Organization 
  • Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association 
  • Wells Fargo


Chicago-Lake supporters celebrate opening of safety center

November 10, 2005—Dozens of community members were joined by a long list of civic leaders to dedicate the Midtown Community Safety Center. Many speakers emphasized the "eyes on the street" public safety presence the center would add to the busy intersection, but on this sunny afternoon actions spoke larger than words. As police officers including Chief William McManus gathered for the celebration, they received a stolen car report originating less than a block away. They sprinted down the block and made an arrest.

The safety center: 

  • Results from the partnership of several neighborhood groups, local businesses, Minneapolis and Hennepin County to put a needed public safety facility in place.
  • Puts police and probation officers, plus a community meeting space, on street level at one of the city’s busiest intersections, expanding a community outreach and enforcement model proven successful on Franklin Ave. 
  • Supports revitalization: The safety center will begin operating the week before Chicago Ave. and Lake Street are re-opened after construction and two months before the Midtown Exchange opens its doors.
  • Helps local merchants send the message that the area is open for business with new attractions and added safety.

Sergeant Bill Blake and the Native American Law Enforcement Summit

In January 2006 Sergeant Bill Black of the Minneapolis Police Department addressed the Community Crime Prevention Initiative. Sergeant Blake is organizing the first Native American Law Enforcement Summit to deal with the growing problems of crime and gang activity among Native Americans in Minnesota cities and reservations. Below is an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about Sergeant Blake and his efforts. 


A daughter's plea `to do more'

A violent death in the family fueled a Minneapolis sergeant's efforts to improve Indian law enforcement. 

Minneapolis Star Tribune

September 19, 2005 

By David Chanen, Staff Writer 

Bill Blake, a Minneapolis police sergeant who is a member of the Red Lake Nation, took an early interest in preventing violence among Indians, and then he began giving presentations to officers and students across the Midwest about gang problems that cut across all races.

Then came that Tuesday in February 2003. His eldest daughter, Erica Rae Blake, a 20-year-old college student studying to become a social worker, was at a house party on a reservation in Wisconsin. As she came down the stairs, a teenager shot her in the head with a gun he didn't know was loaded. Gang members lived in the house, but the shooting was ruled an accident and the man with the gun got a year in jail, according to court documents. 

For about the past year, Blake has worked on a project to honor his daughter's memory: Minnesota's first Native American Law Enforcement Summit. The two-day conference, starting Tuesday in Hinckley, will provide training for 125 law enforcers and lawyers on issues ranging from Indian prison gangs to substance abuse. The overriding goal is to improve relationships between tribal and non-tribal officers and slow down the crime that cycles between urban and reservation populations. 

"Native American law enforcement can better serve the communities in which they work by having a better exchange of information about who is committing crimes," said U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who will speak at the summit. "The only way to effectively reduce crime is to coordinate this effort." 

Blake, 41, had to see through some dark days before he could even contemplate that Heffelfinger and other top officials would be weighing in about the importance of his fledgling idea. While he received backing from Chief Bill McManus, Blake said some officers accused him of only doing the summit for a promotion. Tribal officers told him they should be planning such an event, not a city cop. "One officer was afraid we'd put our families at risk because people in the community would be angry," Blake said. "Doing nothing will get your family killed. To not address the situation is irresponsible." 

He went to Bill Means, a longtime Indian activist, who welcomed the summit and sees it as a chance to solve criminal problems involving the Little Earth housing complex in south Minneapolis. Means and Little Earth residents had been concerned about American Indians committing crimes in Minneapolis and hiding out on reservations or taking their criminal activities to the reservations. 

Blake said he hopes to set up a website at his department for all law enforcement with information about American Indian gang members, crime alerts and contacts that help tribal officers find the right officer in the Twin Cities to track a suspect or get information. Sgt. Herb Fineday of the Fond du Lac Tribal Police Department near Cloquet would welcome such a tool. 

"In the past, you may discover through investigation that a suspect or witness fled to Minneapolis or St. Paul. It may take a series of calls before you find that person three or four days later," he said. 

The summit "is great for tribal law enforcement, who don't get a lot of [training] opportunities like this because of lack of resources," said Bernard Zapor, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Minnesota. 


`Able to help' 

The way the summit has fallen into place makes Blake believe Erica Rae must have been helping him, he said. "She wanted to work with Indian kids in crisis," he said. "Even though she's not here, she will be able to help people." The stories about his first-born child flow easily. There was the drive back from Fond du Lac Community College with his daughter in 1999. Blake had given his presentation and they talked about the emergence of drugs, violence and gangs on reservations. 

`You know, Dad, you have to do more,'-" Blake said she told him. "I thought I was already doing enough being a parent, cop and presenter." While he worked nights, Erica Rae went to live with his parents in Sheyenne, N.D. In high school, she became a cheerleader and was on the varsity volleyball and track teams. It wouldn't be too long before she made Blake a grandfather to Isaiah. 

She went to live with her mother on the St. Croix Indian Reservation, where she attended college. Blake's brother had to deliver the news of her accidental death. 

The officer found it hard to ignore the swirling rumors: Maybe his daughter was actually targeted because she was a cop's daughter. Gang members lived in the house, but Erica Rae had known some of them since childhood, he said. He had Minneapolis homicide investigators review her case, and they also determined her death was an accident. Isaiah, "who is a good boy," is going to hear a lot about the mother he had for only six months, Blake said. Erica Rae would go to the health club with him and could bench 150 pounds, and she favored music by the Dixie Chicks, Garbage and Sheryl Crow, he said. 

Blake misses the runs around Como Lake and her outgoing, sometimes rebellious personality. 

"Erica is my passion and drive," he said. "I miss her terribly." 

David Chanen is at