Two Dinkytown streets to be blocked off to traffic as part of safety pilot program

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Two streets in Minneapolis’ Dinkytown area will be temporarily closed to vehicle traffic for three weekends starting on Thursday as part of an effort “to enhance safety and pedestrian access.”

According to a news release from the University of Minnesota, concrete pylons will block off Fifth Street Southeast between 13th and 14th avenues and 14th Avenue Southeast between Fifth and Fourth streets. The barriers will be in place from 4 p.m. on Thursdays through 10 a.m. on Sundays.

Barricades between the pylons will allow for emergency vehicle access.

The pilot project comes amid outcry from U of M students and parents over an increase in violent crime near campus.

“Public safety in the Dinkytown neighborhood continues to be a significant concern for students, faculty, staff, neighborhood residents, parents, and visitors to our community — all of them potential Dinkytown business customers,” the release from the university states.

Students who live nearby told 5 EYEWITNESS News the roads that are being blocked have become problem spots in recent months with shootings, armed robberies, people driving recklessly and doing burnouts in the streets.

“I’ve seen the burnouts at this stoplight and I can hear it from my apartment at like three in the morning. It just goes crazy,” said Jordan Heruth, an incoming senior at the University of Minnesota. “That corner over there, there’s been shootings. Carjackings are up a lot. Even walking home from the library at night, I’m scared. I call my parents and facetime them or my parents will Uber me home from the library. And it’s like, that shouldn’t have to be.”

Brian Peck is one of the parents who has been pushing for safety changes.

“This has become my second full-time job,” said Peck. “I’m a gopher alum. I love the university and I never had any of those problems. Now my kids can’t even walk two blocks in the middle of the day.”

Peck shared a video with 5 EYEWITNESS News that he said was captured on a security camera outside his son’s fraternity house on University Avenue in June. Police said 50 rounds were fired by multiple people, leaving a 15-year-old shot in the leg.

“I’m horrified. It’s become a routine occurrence that they hear gunshots. They duck under the tables, they wait for it to stop, and they come back up. This is impacting people’s lives on a daily basis. Everybody is sick and tired of this crime.”

Peck is part of a Facebook group of more than 2,000 university parents who are demanding action.

Two weeks ago, he also started a new non-profit called Campus Safety Coalition, which aims to increase safety on campus and in the surrounding areas.

The group of parents had a recent meeting with the university president and a listening session with the Board of Regents.

“I’ve been a very vocal, loud voice trying to get a seat at the table with the University of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis to become part of the solution,” Peck said. “And I’m encouraged that now additional actions are being taken. It just shows when Minnesotans come together to solve a problem, it can be done.”

Peck is part of the university’s newly formed Strategic Safety Advisory Committee, composed of students, parents, faculty, campus police, and the Minneapolis Police Department.

He said the group created the plan for the barricades in Dinkytown and suggested setting up a portable police camera in the area. A 5 EYEWITNESS News crew was there as the camera was set up Thursday morning.

While the road closures are a step taken for safety, businesses between the barricades worry it will impact their bottom line.

“I personally think it’s going to hurt some businesses on this street,” said Lexy Race, general manager at Crisp & Green’s Dinkytown location.

She pointed out the area will lose critical parking spaces, with meters now bagged by police.

“I’ve already had some guests say that if they can’t park, then they can’t come,” Race said. “So there are pros and cons. Safety’s obviously really important. We’ll just have to see how much of a difference it makes.”

Heruth added, “I think there’s more to be done, but it’s a start.”

The barricade effort is one of 26 action items being considered by the university’s Strategic Safety Advisory Committee. You can see the full list here.

At the close of the three weeks, the Minneapolis and University of Minnesota police departments will evaluate the barriers’ impact by looking at changes in 911 calls and university safety alerts stemming from that area.

The U of M cites collaboration with the city, law enforcement, and Minneapolis City Council Member Michael Rainville in formulating the plan. Rainville was among the most prominent voices calling for more stringent security measures — going as far as to ask Gov. Tim Walz to activate the National Guard before calling instead for additional State Patrol troopers — following a night of mayhem near the Stone Arch Bridge earlier this month.

Minneapolis police installed concrete pylons similar to what’s being tested in Dinkytown along Second Street South in the city’s Mill District just days after street racers sped through the area and shot fireworks at apartment buildings and pedestrians on July Fourth.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has reached out to Rainville for comment.

RELATED: U of M parents sound off on safety concerns amid violence on and near campus