A surge in gun violence brings increased police presence to Uptown

"It's become a situation where you have people coming to Uptown with a threatening attitude," says one resident. "Before the attitude shift, it was just people acting stupid and drunk."

"It's become a situation where you have people coming to Uptown with a threatening attitude," says one resident. "Before the attitude shift, it was just people acting stupid and drunk."

Angelika Berthold didn't wake peacefully on July 1. A fear-stained voice roused her around 2:30 a.m. at the Uptown home she shares with boyfriend Steven Taylor.

"She's been shot!" a person screamed. "She's been shot!"   

Berthold woke Taylor. The voice sounded close by, coming from the direction of Humboldt Avenue South and Lagoon Avenue, Taylor correctly surmised. Police would soon find a female victim there, suffering from a bullet wound to the neck.

She'd be the new day's third victim of gun violence, and the fourth in Uptown in less than a week.

That bloody Sunday made for jarring headlines. But Taylor, who's lived in Uptown on and off since 2004, says it shouldn't come as a surprise. A landlord with multiple rental properties in the area, Taylor believes years of indifference from police toward lesser crimes, combined with an appetite for violence by an increasing band of Uptown patrons, has fostered an urban wild west of sorts, one in which aggression rises quickly and there are no rules. 

"Back in 2005 or 2010, when someone assaulted another person in Uptown, they got arrested," Taylor says. "More recently, however, if somebody gets punched, the cops do nothing. What you're seeing happening is those wanting to start trouble are unafraid of repercussions.

"Anyone who says the guy punching someone and the guy shooting someone are completely unrelated, I can't believe that. I would say people who are willing to throw a punch are more likely to bring a gun. And if you don't arrest them for throwing a punch, they're more likely to come back to throw more punches or even worse."

Will seconds that. Until recently, Will, who asked that only his first name be used, argues, Minneapolis police have failed to recognize the new kind of party that's taking place inside the bars along Lagoon, those establishments to the east on Lyndale Avenue, and on the sidewalks in-between.

"It's become a situation where you have people coming to Uptown with a threatening attitude," he says. "Before the attitude shift, it was just people acting stupid and drunk. They may have made an off-hand comment that started an argument or gotten into a shoving match. Today, it goes straight from a small little thing to a punch. Basically, it's a much shorter temper, a much faster escalation where it's a macho, egotistical sort of thing."

Taylor sensed the ground shifting in 2016. Two incidents signaled the change.

It was not quite a year ago when he came upon as many as 12 combatants involved in a full-blown group brawl near the parking ramp at Girard and Lagoon. A mob of some 100 people whooped it up and cheered encouragement.

Weeks later, Taylor witnessed a particularly vicious fight end with the vanquished being dragged across an Uptown intersection by his long hair.

"In both cases, I didn't see any cops. I didn't see anyone get arrested," he says. "I don't remember the last time I saw someone get arrested in Uptown, honestly. I see at least a couple of fights a month and that's on a good month. On a bad month, I might see that in one night. What I've seen in the past year never happened in 2005 or even five years ago. It's unacceptable what's happening."

But the stats from June 2005, 2010, and 2016 tell a different story. Either crime in Uptown is actually decreasing, or fewer people are calling the cops.

2005 had the highest number of total crimes — 291 — reported in the four neighborhoods that form Uptown's axis. Last June, the number had fallen to 178 incidents. The number of assaults in those three years were 39, 24, and 14, respectively. 

The department has yet to compile this June's numbers. But for April, the most current month available, there were 228 total crimes reported in Uptown, with assault accounting for about 10 percent.

But stats don't do the reality justice, Taylor counters.

"What I've been told by someone from the 5th Precinct is they don't have the resources to make the arrests," he says. "I understand if you take a cop off the street on a Friday night it's going to make it possibly worse that night because you're going to have one less cop for an hour or for however long it takes to take someone to jail. But what's worse? Not employing enough cops for the situation now or needing a lot more once it's gotten out of control?"

It already is, says Will. There are people entering bars who intimidate and bully while off-duty officers moonlighting as bar security appear to sit back passively. Outside clubs, the uniformed police presence is virtually nonexistent, charge Taylor and Will.

"In three years working and living in Uptown," says Will, "I've seen officers walking the beat once. Two weekends ago, I had some friends outside Bar Louie and two guys were slightly arguing, and all of a sudden one of them had a gun. Luckily, nothing bad happened after that. But nowhere did they see a cop around. I think police didn't really expect Uptown to become this [bad] as fast as it has."

Minneapolis Police are aware of what's taking place, says Officer Corey Schmidt.

Violent crime "has shifted from downtown to different parts of the city, and it's shifted to that area of Uptown," he says. "Maybe it's because there's so many [on- and off-duty officers] downtown. We don't know why."    

Schmidt does know this: There will be six additional officers on foot in Uptown come Friday and Saturday. That's in addition to about 20 already assigned and an estimated eight off-duty working security at various bars.

Says Schmidt, "These six officers, basically in that Uptown bar area, that's their job to get up in the crowds, walk around and engage, and to be that police presence and to bolster that police presence there."