Updated: August 19, 2020 07:21 AM
Created: August 18, 2020 08:08 PM
The number of homicides in Minneapolis in the first eight months of 2020 has surpassed the number of homicides in all of last year.
The Minneapolis Police Department reported the city's 49th homicide Tuesday. By contrast, there were 48 homicides in Minneapolis in all of 2019.
"This is one of the most painful years I've ever experienced and I've been in Minneapolis all of my life," said Cam Gordon, city councilmember for Ward 2. "I think the number of guns, the number of shootings, it's very concerning. It's sad."
Minneapolis police said there were two shooting deaths Tuesday. One man was shot just after midnight and found in the passenger seat of a car. They are investigating a second homicide around 6:30 a.m. near East 59th Street.
"Every time, you don't know if it's a firework, a gunshot, you don't know what it is, but I'm jumping like I'm in a war zone. That's how we feel, like we're in a war zone. Are you serious? This is not okay," said Audua Pugh, who lives in the Jordan neighborhood.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS compiled Minneapolis Police Department statistics for the last decade and found the year-to-date numbers for 2020 are significantly higher than any other year, with 49 homicides so far. The next highest year was 2015, with 29 homicides through mid-August.
According to the data, homicides are also on the rise in the third precinct, which covers South Minneapolis. This year, 35% of the city's homicides are in the third precinct, compared to 21% last year.
Eight community members are suing the mayor and city council over safety concerns. The group filed the lawsuit Monday, alleging city leaders "have violated their duties to fund, employ and manage a police force as required by the City Charter."
The lawsuit states: "Through the end of July, at least 80 officers have retired or quit, up dramatically from the annual average of 45. This attrition is continuing, as Mayor Frey stated in his 2021 Budget Address on August 14 that he expects 100 police officers to retire from the force by year-end. No replacement officers are planned to be hired, since Frey also stated those eliminated positions would be 'included in our hiring freeze,' and all Minneapolis' police training academies have been canceled for the remainder of 2020. Furthermore, due to the hostile working conditions created by Frey and the City Council, by the end of July more than 200 officers had applied for disability—about 20% of the entire force. According to a city spokesperson, on July 17 a total of 111 employed officers were on some type of medical leave, including 40 PTSD claims filed just since May 26."
The plaintiffs are asking the court to order the mayor and city council to "take all necessary steps to hire, train, fund and deploy a minimum of 743 licensed peace officers."
A spokesperson for MPD responded to the claims, saying they currently have 856 sworn officers and are allocated to have 888. He said they also have 147 civilian officers.
"We are in an urgent state of emergency right now due to the crime," said Cathy Spann, one of the plaintiffs in the case. "As citizens, the City of Minneapolis owes us. We have a right to expect that we can be safe walking the street, that our children can play in their yards. Enough is enough."
The group alleges the mayor and city council are failing to protect residents.
"If it is about our safety and we are not safe and you are not reacting, what are we to conclude?" said Don Samuels, one of the community members bringing the lawsuit.
He said the rhetoric of elected officials to defund and dismantle MPD has been harmful to the community.
"We have turned the whole thing upside down, emboldened criminals, strengthened the union's position, we have demoralized the chief who was on the path to transformation and we have reduced the police force, so it's chaos," Samuels said.
The City Attorney's Office said it "is in the process of reviewing the lawsuit."
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS also asked Frey to respond to the uptick in violent crime. The mayor issued this statement: "Over the past two weeks, I have been working closely with Chief Arradondo to effectively re-allocate a large share of Minneapolis police officers to enforcement and investigative duties. Additional MPD resources have also been freed up thanks to the extended support of the U.S. Attorney's multi-jurisdictional task force, and our department continues to work closely with key community partners to collect intelligence and stem the violence."
Councilmember Gordon said the city is planning to try a new program this fall, modeled after the Cure Violence initiative being used in other major cities. He said it involves having trained community members helping deescalate dangerous situations in their own neighborhoods.
"My hope is that by focusing on where a lot of these issues are and trying to get people on the street who are talking and communicating and interrupting the violence and anticipating it, we can help slow things down and make more progress," Gordon said.
The group involved in the lawsuit said, in addition to more officers, they would also like to see police reform.
"We want more police and we want better police," said Sondra Samuels. "We've watched the carnage in our community for too long. We've watched the trauma, the hurt, the pain. We are all fighting for transformation."
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