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.