Crushed By Crime

Police Car-Crime Scene-United Police Fund

Elaine, a front-line health care worker in Minneapolis, was putting  groceries in the trunk of her car recently, in a crowded parking lot at  the Uptown Kowalski’s Market, giving her high-alert system a break, as  most of us do when some benign activity consumes our attention. It was  5:15 p.m.

A moment  later, a car blaring loud music pulled up behind hers, trapping her at  her own car’s trunk. Someone got out of the car and punched Elaine to  the ground. An accomplice wrested her handbag from her arm. In the next  instant, the car and assailants were gone. It was again a regular  evening, just after dark, in a busy parking lot in Uptown.

The robbery  had happened so fast that no one had even noticed. Elaine, my  colleague’s mom, a 60-plus year-old woman, beaten and robbed, her eye  already swelling shut, had to pull herself up from the ground and  stumble into the store for help.

The store  security chief, Scott Nelson, experienced with this kind of crime,  immediately began reviewing film from monitoring cameras at nearby  businesses.

Committed to  pursuing justice for Elaine, Nelson laments that we “need police service  and we need more of it. South Minneapolis is worse than I’ve ever seen  it.” He describes the surge of 20-plus attacks a day that are now  striking people just going about their daily business, people like  Elaine.

Usually  in a stolen car, perpetrators Nelson describes as “young teens,  12-to-14 years old” cruise from lot to lot in neighborhood business  districts, waiting for a victim, “like a deer hunter sits in a tree.”

When they are  apprehended, Nelson says consequences are negligible. “I arrest the  same people over and over. Nothing happens to them.”

My heart  hurts to see so much media coverage about our city’s failure to protect  its citizens. It hurts even more when you know someone who has been  sacrificed by this crisis of leadership. Recently we heard the chief of  police appealing that “we are bleeding” in unprotected neighborhoods  (“City Council members, police chief clash over plans for outside help,”  Nov. 13).  This media coverage isn’t just local; Minneapolis is making national  news, again and again, over the dangerous environment our politicians  have amplified. On CBS’ “60 Minutes” and in the Washington Post,  Minneapolis’ embarrassing, confused state about whom to serve, whether  to protect and how to respond, has been revealed, increasing unchecked  violence. As a citizen, I feel like a pawn in someone else’s power  struggle.

In recent  years many regional leaders and groups have invested in rebranding our  region for a more vibrant future. We planned to use our built and  natural environment to welcome a new generation of visitors, workers and  residents. How I would love to have those days of blossoming  possibility back.

Now our  city’s future hangs in the balance. As we teeter between proclamations  and inaction, women are attacked while running daily errands.  Carjackings are perpetrated in broad daylight; my daughter witnessed one  the other day as she walked her dog. A North Side community group is  suing the city for holding the concept of safety hostage to the concept  of reform. It is not viable to sacrifice one to the other. Surely we can  achieve both?

Elaine and  her husband, Harold, also a front-line health care worker, received  concern and care from the store where she was assaulted and robbed. They  offered the family a grocery gift card for the upcoming holiday. They  declined, asking that the store give it to someone in need.

Kate  Mortenson, former president and CEO of the 2019 Final Four Minneapolis  Local Organizing Committee, is founder and CEO at iPondr, a digital  media company. 

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