Downtown Minneapolis: Robberies this year have more than doubled compared to 2011

Violent crime downtown has spiked dramatically this year.
Violent crime downtown has spiked dramatically this year.

Early this year, we told you about how violent crime in Minneapolis reached a 28-year low in 2011. But while violent crime citywide has been on a downward trajectory, it has risen dramatically downtown through the first five months of this year.

According to a Star Tribune report, from January 1 through May 28, robbery has climbed 105 percent in the city's First Precinct, which covers downtown, from 54 incidents in 2011 to 111 this year. Reported rapes are up from 27 to 37, with aggravated assaults climbing from 69 last year to 87 this year.

Overall, violent crime downtown -- including murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, and aggravated domestic assault -- is up 56 percent this year.

Shane Zahn, director of safety initiatives for the Downtown Improvement District, attributes the violent crime increase partly to the increasing prevalence of smartphones and the mild weather.

Zahn told the Strib criminals can make a quick $100 to $300 selling stolen phones, adding that some pedestrians become so distracted texting and tweeting and Facebooking that it's relatively easy for crooks to approach and snatch them out of their hands. In late January, the city of Minneapolis sent out a crime alert warning pedestrians about a rash of smartphone thefts, but that apparently hasn't ameliorated the problem.

As for the weather, Zahn pointed out that heavy snows in early 2011 kept downtown crowds to a minimum, whereas this year people were out in short sleeves in February.

Police are taking drastic measures to curtail downtown crime, particularly around nightclubs on First Avenue North near closing time. The Strib reports that "every weekend, police spray chemical irritants to keep clubgoers moving and break up fights." Come for drinks and dancing, stay for the mace!

Summer typically brings larger and rowdier crowds downtown, so the winter and spring violent crime surge is of particular concern to downtown police. Until the numbers go down, you may want to pack a gas mask if you plan to stay out clubbing till bar close.

Related coverage:
-- Whatever happened to the downtown Minneapolis mobs that beat people senselessly?
-- Minneapolis experiencing rash of smartphone thefts
-- Minneapolis: Violent crime continues to decrease

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