Building on Success:

Anti-Crime Initiatives Lead to New Investments at Chicago-Lake

 

October 2003—"Chicago-Lake has long been an 'if only' intersection," said John Wolf, owner of Chicago-Lake Liquors. "People would say, 'With so much traffic, this would be a great location to invest if only the crime wasn't so bad. Now crime is down and we have the right conditions to make those investments."

Wolf should know. A member of the Chicago-Lake Business Association, he became part the Chicago-Lake Crime Workgroup, one of most successful neighborhood-level anti-crime efforts in the city. And he is the investor behind one of two ongoing redevelopments of storefront businesses at Chicago-Lake that total more than $1 million.

Wolf is backing the construction of a Mexican eatery, Carne Asada, to be operated by Ernesto Reyes, whose Me Gusta restaurants are among the best-known on East Lake Street. Across the street, on the intersection's northeast corner, Peter Boosalis is remodeling for a Foot Locker shoe store and other new retail tenants.

"My family has owned this building since 1909," said Boosalis. "They were the first Greek immigrants in the city. So this corner is in my blood. It feels great to be expanding rather than waiting out the bad times, as we've had to do for many years. The corner is more stable, and that gave me the confidence to move ahead."

These significant reinvestments come only a year after a neighborhood group approached the Phillips Partnership seeking leadership in addressing a particularly disturbing spike in crime. When the partnership formed the Chicago-Lake Crime Workgroup in March 2002, the crime rates were twice what they are today.  

Chicago-Lake Intervention

By building strategies to fight quality-of-life issues like corner drug dealing and litter, the Chicago-Lake Crime Workgroup created a model for targeted enforcement. The workgroup focused intensely on coordinating the efforts of several law-enforcement jurisdictions and neighborhood initiatives. The major results were constant patrolling, stepped-up parole monitoring and a near-daily schedule of street cleaning.

"The corner is mostly calm. It's as clean as I've ever seen it," said Ted Muller, executive director of the Lake Street Council and a member of the Chicago-Lake Crime Workgroup. "We did a lot of good by making our presence felt."

Ten months after its creation, the Chicago-Lake workgroup issued a final report in February that proposed the formation of a law-enforcement partnership that would apply the crime-reduction strategies of the Chicago-Lake intervention throughout the Lake Street corridor in Phillips.

"We set up the crime workgroup and the crime rate fell," said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. "Now we need to see this happen all along Lake."

That mission has been entrusted to the Phillips Police Probation Partnership, or P4, a new alliance of enforcement officers from Minneapolis police, county probation and Metro Transit. The 11-member group also includes city and county attorneys and neighborhood representatives. The Phillips Partnership provides a staff member to convene and support the group.

At P4's core is a probation-based strategy--considered the central accomplishment of the Chicago-Lake workgroup--that targets repeat offenders who return to a regular hangout after serving short jail sentences for misdemeanors.

"We expect this new crime fighting partnership to continue with a sense of urgency," said McLaughlin. He said P4's initial operational focus is Lake Street between Chicago and Bloomington Avenues.

Cooperation Finds Answers, Raises Questions
When the intervention began, the Crime Workgroup's goal was to explore cooperative solutions for improving public safety at the intersection.

First, the Minneapolis Police Department and Metro Transit Police aligned their schedules, ensuring the intersection would have continual patrolling from 2 pm to 2 am. This measure stayed in effect from April to October, 2002.

The workgroup analyzed crime at the intersection and found that misdemeanors committed by repeat offenders already on probation accounted for the bulk of the activity. This finding became the central element in the workgroup's response.

McLaughlin and Commissioner Mark Stenglein sponsored a resolution authorizing $5 million dollars for neighborhood-based enforcement. The county board then earmarked a portion of this funding for the addition of two probation officers stationed in the Phillips neighborhood.

The workgroup tied stepped-up law enforcement to other methods of crime deterrence. One step was to coordinate a regular schedule for litter removal with the city, county, Metro Transit, Sentence to Serve and neighborhood volunteer groups, including the Chicago-Lake Business Association. Another was gaining a pledge by the Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches to visit all identified arrestees in the workhouse.

And the workgroup raised awareness of the need for better reporting and analysis of crime statistics for misdemeanors.

Police records show that "quality of life" crime accounts for approximately 60 arrests per month at the Chicago-Lake intersection. Roughly half of those arrested are on probation. The workgroup advocated for a better system of tracking misdemeanors that would be modeled on the Minneapolis Police Department's CODEFOR database, which has published violent crime statistics broken down by neighborhood since 1998.

Budget Cuts Threaten Progress
The handful of city and county law enforcement personnel whose informal coordination drives the P4 group have expressed guarded optimism that they can realize the workgroup's mandate.

"Any time you put resources together and form partnerships, you have success," said Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Kris Arneson of the Third Precinct. "With Chicago-Lake, community police and business came together and worked out what they wanted to see happen. It's the cooperation that brings lasting results. No one group can achieve them alone."

At issue, said Arneson, isn't will power but budget.

"We saw the value of six months of scheduled enforcement at Chicago-Lake. The problem is, overtime paid for those patrols, and authorizations for overtime are getting less and less frequent."

McLaughlin expressed concern to the workgroup at its final meeting that state budget cuts to public policing--$5 million in the 2003 budget--has created a struggle for resources that could forestall his efforts to move more probation monitoring into the community. He urged concerned people and organizations to write Governor Pawlenty to communicate the importance of special enforcement programs in targeted neighborhoods.

The current cuts will "draw down" 12 probation officers in adult supervision, said Craig Vos of Hennepin County Probation, but they will not immediately affect staff in south Minneapolis. The likeliest impact, he said, would be felt at the level of city and county attorneys who make the inter-agency coordination possible. "If we're squeezed at the top, it's uncertain how well our efforts will translate into prosecutions."

The Phillips Partnership has pledged continued support for the P4 in organizing community resources and issue advocacy.

Phillips Police Probation Partnership (P4)
- Lt. Kris Arneson, Minneapolis Police
- Scott Christensen, City Attorney's office
- Sadie Facion, Hennepin County Probation
- Don Greeley, Minneapolis CCPSAFE Officer
- Karen Green, Minneapolis CCPSAFE Officer
- Denis Haven, Metro Transit
- Shirely Heyer, Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association
- Julie Ingebretson, Ingebretson's
- Andy LeFevour, County Attorney's office
- Jana Metge, Midtown Phillips Neighborhood Association
- Michael Sandin, Hennepin County Probation
- Craig Vos, Hennepin County Probation (convenor)
- Louis Smith, Phillips Partnership (staff)

Chicago-Lake Crime Workgroup
- Lt. Kris Arneson, Minneapolis Police
- Lee Cunningham, Messiah Lutheran Church
- Sadie Facion, Hennepin County Probation
- Bob Hand, Minnesota Workforce Manager
- Dennis Haven, Metro Transit Police
- Pete Huber, Abbott Northwestern Hospital
- Andrea Jenkins, Council Member Robert Lilligren's Office
- Joyce Krook, Abbott Northwestern Hospital
- Sharon Lubinski, Minneapolis Police
- Gwen McMahon, Citizen
- Jana Metge, Citizen
- Nicole Magnan, Minneapolis Police, CCP Safe
- Ted Muller, Lake Street Council
- Jack Nelson, Metro Transit Police
- Ken Palmer, Wells Fargo
- Michael Sandin, Hennepin County Probation
- Eric Shogren, Minneapolis Police
- Muriel Simmons, Phillips West neighborhood
- Lisa Vecoli, Hennepin County Commissioner McLaughlin's office
- Craig Vos, Hennepin County Probation
- John Wolf, Chicago Lake Liquors