Homicide statistics alone don’t convey the full costs of rising crime in Minnesota’s largest city.
This past summer, a judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota, ruled in favor of the “Minneapolis 8,” a group of minority Minneapolis residents who sued the city last fall for violating its charter by failing to maintain a large enough police force. The ruling, which directed the city to hire more officers, sparked a glimmer of hope among residents that they would be spared from the worst policy impulses of police-abolitionist activists and politicians.
The ruling, however, doesn’t take effect until 2022, when the city will begin the process of hiring and training more officers, and current conditions in Minneapolis are already dire. According to the MPD’s official homicide statistics, last year’s 83 murders approached the previous record of 97 set in 1995, when the city earned the nickname “Murderapolis” with a murder rate that surpassed New York’s. Homicides are now on pace to approach, if not surpass, 1995’s record. Historically crime-ridden parts of the city are plagued with nightly street violence, endangering those most disenfranchised and also affecting the quality of life in neighborhoods once considered safe havens.
There are rising reports of children being caught up in the rampant street violence. On September 8, a 12-year-old was shot in what police described as a “neighborhood dispute that turned violent” in North Minneapolis. The victims of this summer’s endemic violence include several children, including two three-year-olds hit by gunfire in different locations in the span of a week.
Having closely followed the downward spiral of Minneapolis since the MPD’s 3rd Precinct burned down in late May 2020, I was moved by the story of Don Samuels, a Jamaican immigrant who worked his way up the socioeconomic ladder and made generous contributions to civic life, only to see his city disintegrate into lawless anarchy last summer. As I reported in the New York Post, Samuels took matters into his own hands by suing the city for failing to provide sufficient police protection.
Speaking with Samuels, I learned that statistics don’t capture the true impact of crime in a community. He told me of a family whose young son had been clinically diagnosed with a psychological disorder from the trauma of hearing gunshots every night. “Their son is sleeping in their bedroom on the floor next to their bed, and now becoming so traumatized that he’s having cold sweats and shivering. The psychologist recommended that they move,” he said. “People are going to the doctor, getting medication for stress on my street.”
These tragic outcomes are not surprising. A body of research shows that local violence causes children to sleep less, to suffer from increased anxiety and impaired impulse control, and to experience substantial temporary reductions in cognitive performance on standardized tests. Functional communities depend on public safety and order.
The origins of the disorder plaguing Minneapolis are no mystery. The media and politicians attribute the homicide spike to economic devastation from the pandemic, but the violence skyrocketed in Minneapolis (and other major American cities) only after the riots and protests last year. In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death, gunfire incidents rose by more than 120 percent in Minneapolis. By the end of June 2020, they had surged 224 percent.
As University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell argued in a paper last year, institutionalized anti-police sentiment across the country—visible in political, cultural, academic, and media institutions—led to a reduction of proactive policing. In Minneapolis, “police stops and officer-initiated calls dropped more than half, use-of-force incidents fell by two-thirds,” and “traffic-related incidents and patrols became far less common,” Cassell wrote.
Radical, anti-police signals weren’t just coming from activists. Last summer, a majority of Minneapolis city council members voted to dismantle the city’s police force and later slashed $8 million from its budget and diverted it to other services. Samuels recounted his surprise at hearing this news: “My wife and I look at each other and go like, ‘Oh my God, it’s going to be crazy around here.’ Just hearing those words. Do you understand? Because the message we’re sending as neighbors was just totally opposite to that.”
But outside of conservative-leaning alternate-media venues, the story of Samuels’s lawsuit received little to no coverage. Stories highlighting the vital necessity of police, especially for disadvantaged communities, are too politically incorrect for the mainstream media. Ironically, MSNBC’s Joy Reid recently indicted her own profession for not paying enough attention to nonwhite victims of injustice, yet neither her program nor her network have devoted much time to the raging gang violence in cities like Minneapolis.
At its best, journalism gives a voice to the voiceless, to those marginalized by systemic and institutional failures. But in the age of racial identity politics, it seems, black lives matter only if they’re being taken by a cop.
Editor’s note: MPD’s 3rd Precinct burned down in late May 2020, not July, as the article originally stated.
Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images
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