Ellison says his office won’t take action against Merwin Liquors, Winner Gas Station due to significant decrease in crime
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says his office is shifting from “litigation to monitoring” Merwin Liquors and Winner Gas following a civil investigation into whether the businesses were “maintaining or permitting an unlawful presence on their properties.”
In September, when Ellison announced the investigation, he called the corner of Broadway and Lyndale in north Minneapolis the city’s “largest open-air drug market.” He also warned the businesses could face a lawsuit.
At a community meeting Thursday at Sanctuary Covenant Church, the attorney general, law enforcement, political leaders, and community and faith leaders talked about what’s changed since then.
At the time the civil investigation was filed, Minneapolis police said they had responded to nearly 3,500 calls for service since 2019 at the two businesses, located off of North Lyndale Avenue between West Broadway and 21st avenues. Ellison’s office added it found 14 instances of shots fired, people injured, guns found or drug activity at Merwin Liquors and 22 at Winner Gas in 2022 alone.
That’s when the community group We Push for Peace started maintaining a presence at Merwin Liquors, opening a resource center that connects people with job training, drug treatment and other programs. Across the street, Winner Gas hired private security to keep the peace.
Ellison displayed a chart showing calls for service in the past winter at Merwin’s dropped from nearly 80 calls to about nine. At Winner Gas, calls for service fell from over 80 to about 30 calls.
Now instead of taking legal action, Ellison said his office will monitor crime at these two locations.
During Thursday’s meeting, Ellison noted that members of the faith community camped out on the corner of Broadway and Lyndale — phones ready in case they saw any illegal activity.
“But this corner is a corner I’d feel comfortable letting my loved ones walk up to,” Ellison said. “Now, we’re not stopping. Is anybody here ready to stop? We are serious about peace, not only on this corner but in the whole community, the whole city.”
The Rev. Edrin Williams of Sanctuary Covenant Church, next door to Merwin Liquors, expressed concerns.
“While I’m grateful for what we’ve seen and the progress that has happened, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he says. “I believe I have in my body that many in the community feel that perhaps the moment the Attorney General’s Office backs off a little bit, what’s to keep these businesses from doing the same?”
But Trahern Pollard, founder of We Push for Peace, took a more optimistic outlook.
“We’ve been here since September, and there has not been a shooting, there’s not been a 911 call. Hasn’t been any of these things since we’ve been here,” Pollard said. “I love the fact that some of the individuals that used to partake in this area respected us enough not to be.”