Climate change puts the deep-freeze on crime?

Warm weather brings about the seasonal ritual of city leaders worrying about crime in downtown Minneapolis, and if last week is any indication, the hand-wringing is in full bloom.

The Star Tribune ran a story about Mayor R.T. Rybak's desire to get Metro Transit to move bus stops off of 7th Street, leading to an apparently troubled corner of Block E, to 4th Street. "Now, if we stop someone who looks suspicious, they can always say they're waiting for the bus," the story quoted MPD First Precinct Inspector Janee Harteau as saying, citing 40 narcotics arrests in the area in just one week. "It's a reason to be there." Ultimately, Rybak and others will have to lobby Metro Transit to make the move.

At the same time, Rybak's office issued a press release with hizzoner calling for some $500,000 to be put toward hiring more cops on overtime to patrol the area. The city's 2007 budget is $1.3 billion, with some $325 million in the general fund and $125 million of that earmarked for the MPD. So half a million might seem like small potatoes.

Still, given the financial crunch the city's been experiencing for most of this decade, it's worth asking: Does the city have any change to spare?

"We have a contingency fund that tends to be used for one-time things that come up," says the city's chief financial officer Pat Born. The contingency fund has about $2 million in it, Born says, and adds that the mayor's proposal must go through two City Council committees before the full council can vote yea or nay in two weeks.

"Sometimes we spend all of it, sometimes we spend none of it," Born says. "Sometimes we have to use it for snow plowing, but it wasn't that bad a winter, so we have the money."