Open Streets Minneapolis in North Minneapolis neighborhood seeing a decrease in gun crimes
A band plays onstage as children dance in the streets.
Food and service booths line a street devoid of car traffic.
A yoga session on a double yellow line.
“I think this is great, I just love it,” declares Terry Chapman of North Minneapolis. “To see the kids out and not afraid. Just to get to know some of the neighbors.”
These are the sights and sounds of the latest ‘Open Streets Minneapolis’ event.
“We’re standing here on West Broadway, it’s shut down,” smiled Ward 4 City Council Member LaTrisha Vetaw. “There’s thousands of people out here.”
West Broadway, between Penn Avenue North and Lyndale Avenue North, was shut down to vehicular traffic.
“Open Streets allows people to imagine what the future could be like in a very enjoyable way,” explains Jose Zayas Caban, the Executive Director of Our Streets Minneapolis. “We’d love for Open Streets to become an all-Ward program, where we’re closing corridors in the entire city.”
The idea here is to advance the city’s transportation action plan, called ‘As You Go, MPLS.’
The goal is to have 60% of trips by walking, biking, or transit by 2030.
“Ultimately, this is about transportation,” Caban says. “We feel like transportation is about making corridors serve people in little communities instead of cars.”
For this neighborhood — the Open Streets event comes at a pivotal time.
The latest numbers from the city show shots fired calls in North Minneapolis are down nearly 40% compared to last year.
The number of gunshot victims has dropped by 33%.
The city data shows car thefts are up by 53%, and burglaries have increased 20% in the last year.
Chapman says she has reason to be optimistic.
“We definitely are moving in the right direction,” she exclaims. “This area right here was really a high crime area. We had so many hanging out, and it felt so unsafe.”
Just over a year ago, Minneapolis Attorney General Keith Ellison called the area around West Broadway and Lyndale Avenue North ‘the city’s largest open-air drug market.’
But Trahern Pollard, the founder and CEO of ‘We Push For Peace,’ a violence interrupter group, says things are changing.
“I think the numbers out there show that,” he says. “We just had a whole family come into what used to be one of the most tumultuous corners in Minneapolis. So yes, I think a lot of people are feeling more comfortable.”
Along West Broadway, Whitney McLaughlin, an art teacher at the Lucy Craft Laney Community School, was showing youngsters how to paint.
“Get the youth involved… by putting up public works like murals along the North Side. That’s my goal for the year,” she says. “It starts with our kids. If we can get them involved, it’s going to continue to drive down the crime rate and become a beautiful place that the North Side is.”
Our Streets Minneapolis has worked with the Department of Public Works to put on Open Streets events since 2011.
But now the city says it’s going to launch its own event series in 2024.
A city spokesperson says the DPW’s event series is not intended to replace the Open Streets program — and says she hopes both events can exist.
Our Streets Minneapolis says it’s starting a petition drive to the City Council — and is submitting a budget proposal for $841,000.
“There’s definitely an opportunity for the program to continue,” Caban notes. “We would just have to work with a different department in the city, and the city council would have to work with the mayor on the budget, so they can make it a reality.”
Vetaw says the city is committed to making sure Open Streets Minneapolis will continue next year.
“What we have to do is figure out how Our Streets Minneapolis sustains itself,” she says. “And how they get to work with these businesses on Broadway, and future businesses on Broadway, in particular to make sure Open Streets continues.”
Caban hopes an agreement can be worked out. “Having events like this allows us to kind of demonstrate to communities what it is like to have car-free streets,” he says. “But also for outside communities to come into new neighborhoods and engage with the potential of their neighborhoods.”