On the day before Thanksgiving in 1997, Jana Metge left her home in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis and headed for Iowa. She ate with her parents, slept over for a few days, then returned Sunday.
When Metge opened the front door of her lovingly restored home, she faced her worst nightmare: Graffiti marred the walls; feces smeared the floor; semen stained her curtains and towels. The home was gutted—virtually every valuable item had been carried away. The upstairs bath had overflowed and the house had suffered major water damage. Her cat had been tortured and her kitten was missing. And three strangers—two men and a woman—were squatting inside.
"What are you doing in this house?" Metge screamed at them. "This is my house!"
"What do you mean?" one of the invaders responded. "We were told the person who lived here is dead."
Metge yelled at them to get out.
As they calmly left, the invaders strolled past the backpack she'd just put down on the front porch. It contained her wallet, credit cards, and glasses. They casually picked it up and walked away.
They'd stolen $9,000 worth of her belongings, and caused $13,000 in damage to her house. And now Metge didn't even have an I.D.
There had been other home takeovers in Phillips. But this time, the riff-raff messed with the wrong woman. As director of the Central Neighborhood Improvement Association, Metge had dedicated her life to cleaning up crime-ridden neighborhoods. She wasn't about to let this slide.
Metge took her case to court, where Terry McMorris, a 27-year-old thug who had plagued the neighborhood for years, was sentenced to three years in prison.
"We can't have folks that are chronically offending, or harassing visitors in downtown," Metge says. "Or doing open-air drug-dealing on Bloomington Avenue."
Metge and other activists pushed the city to focus on chronic crime. Together, they developed a neighborhood court-watch program—a way for city attorneys, judges, cops, and residents to keep in touch about repeat offenders.
These jokers aren't exactly criminal masterminds.
"We're talking about people who just make things miserable," says Minneapolis Police Sgt. William Palmer. "It's always been said that there's a very small number of people within any community that cause most of your headaches."
Minneapolis keeps track of the top 200. They are alcoholics and drug addicts, mentally ill and homeless, prostitutes and wife-beaters. Chronic offenders cost residents not only quality of life, but also taxes spent on police, prosecutors, and courts.
"There's a core group in every neighborhood that seem to be causing everyone stress," says Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher, adding that the criminal justice system spends "tens of thousands of dollars for each of these offenders each year."
One Hennepin County study estimates that, over the years, the 33 chronic offenders who operate downtown have cost the city a total of $3.7 million in law enforcement, court time, social services, and hospital fees. A workup and overnight stay at Hennepin County Medical Center costs $2,800. A night at Hennepin County Jail costs $363. A night spent sobering up at detox costs $192.
"These minor criminals who are doing stuff all the time cost us more than people who shoot people," says Minneapolis Police Lt. Dean Christensen.
A few years back, former City Attorney Jay Heffern decided to focus on livability crimes. Now, three city attorneys and a paralegal work full-time on nuisance offenders.
"These chronics are the ones who cause the problems and really impact city residents' ability to enjoy and live in their neighborhoods," says the current city attorney, Susan Segal. "If we can make some progress on those people, we're having a real impact."
From January to October last year, livability crimes constituted 43 percent of the city attorney's caseload—about 12,000 cases. While not all the cases were the handiwork of chronics, by 2008 the city's top 200 had contributed more than their unfair share: 8,077 crimes.
"Your livability crimes are nonstop," says Officer David Queen, who patrols downtown. "It's not like if you murder somebody, and all of a sudden you're gone for a while. It seems like you have to be arrested a number of times before something happens."
Serious crime—assault, murder, and rape—is down in Minneapolis, so cops have more time to focus on petty offenders—the ones who make the top 200 list.
"As you can imagine, the cops who have to deal with this over and over again, who may not have the overall picture on a day-to-day basis, think, 'What's wrong with the system?'" says Sgt. Greg Reinhardt, a veteran and former beat cop.
The city's list of the top 200 isn't ranked, so isolating the top 10 took some research. City Pages interviewed more than two dozen law enforcement sources—beat cops from each precinct, police brass, crime prevention specialists, public defenders, and the city attorney—and pored over more than 1,200 arrest reports to compile this list.
To be included, offenders had to be notorious, annoying, and still active in the community. They may not be the most dangerous or even the most prolific, but these are the people who continue to make life miserable for their neighbors.
Name: Dwight Carter Drapeau
Hangout: Little Earth
History: In the late 1990s, when Drapeau was in his early 20s and allegedly dealing weed at Little Earth, the cops had bigger fish to fry. Back then, the American Indian housing complex was plagued by a tense relationship with police and serious crime, including gang murders.
But in the past four years, crime at Little Earth has dropped 68.8 percent, according to Officer Terry Nutter, who patrols the area. "We haven't had a homicide in the community since 2005," Nutter says. "Now the main issues we have are curfew, the minor consumptions here and there, trespasses."
And the king of these minor offenses is our boy Dwight. He grew up in Little Earth, and his mother and sister still live there, but Dwight has been banned from the premises for causing too much trouble. He gets drunk and he starts fights. He swears in front of kids. Two and a half years ago, cops found Drapeau outside one of the buildings, peeing in the yard while walking in a circle. "You don't know who you are fucking with," he told the cops. "Fuck off, I'll do whatever I want, when I want."
Drapeau has continued to live by that mantra. In 2007, he was arrested for punching his sister in the face at the housing complex.
But Drapeau's a social guy, and he keeps coming back for more—especially when it involves a party or a fight. Earlier this month, officers found Drapeau passed out on a couch. They sent him to Hennepin County Jail. Three days later, Little Earth security called the MPD—Drapeau was back again; could the cops get rid of him?
"If I find him, I know where the problem addresses are," Nutter says. "He's like a mouse to cheese."
Name: Ronald William King
Hangouts: Downtown, St. Stephen's homeless shelter on 22nd and Clinton
History: At 175 arrests and citations, King's rap sheet is among the longest in the MPD's computerized system (which stretches back to 1990), but varied it is not. Since the grunge era, King, 49, has been doing the same things over and over: getting drunk, shoplifting, panhandling, trespassing, and pissing in public. Often, he does more than one of those activities at a time.
In April 1992, when he was 31, King got his first arrest for swiping a bottle of mouthwash from F.W. Woolworth's department store on Seventh and Nicollet. Since then, he's been arrested at Target downtown for shoplifting Listerine—27 percent alcohol content. And he's been picked up drunk, smelling as often of mouthwash as he does of Kamchatka vodka, apparently his drink of choice when he's flush.
To support his habit, King shoplifts or begs. Often, he carries a sign: "Please help, homeless, thank you, God bless." Over the years, Minneapolis cops have taken him to detox 33 times, but he never stays clean.
Sometimes, they find him at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Nicollet, carousing with buddies. But most of the time these days, he hangs out near less classy digs: the homeless shelter on 22nd Street and Clinton Avenue.
Lahlary the Metal Man
Name: Larry "Lahlary" Donell Henley
Hangouts: Whittier, Phillips, Franklin Avenue
History: Among the crackheads and petty thieves, Henley has distinguished himself with his particular obsession: scrap metal. Sure, his rap sheet includes the odd shoplifting arrest, but mostly Henley has been a human metal detector.
Lahlary started in March 2005 by allegedly stealing a barbecue grill from behind an apartment complex at East 21st Street and 11th Avenue South. Five months later, he confronted a woman in her yard in the 1700 block of East 25th Street, demanding her recycling cans.
The next year, he was accused of a spate of metal-related crimes: swiping a chrome shower ring from a yard in the 700 block of East 27th Street, attempting to steal two bags of aluminum cans from a restaurant-equipment supplier in the 1000 block of North Fifth Street, and pushing a shopping cart full of scrap metal away from a home he'd just robbed.
Over the next two years, he poached an Aldi shopping cart and filled it with scrap metal, made off with a brass statue from Kirschbaum-Krupp Metal Recycling, and pilfered some aluminum frames from a realtor.
"He's a chronic thief of yard items," says Carla Nielson, Minneapolis Police crime prevention specialist in the neighborhood where Henley tends to hang out.
Refuse him when he wants something from your yard? Watch out. Lahlary once brandished an ax at a man who resisted. Fortunately, the victim got away alive—and Lahlary left his yard empty-handed.
Name: Deon Jackson
Hangouts: Downtown, Salvation Army at 1010 Currie Avenue
History: Whether he's drunk, high, or just mentally ill, Jackson's bizarre behavior suggests he maintains a fragile connection with reality. And whatever tenuous connection he does have seems tinged with rage.
In June 2000, he lashed out at security guards at Laurel Village, where he'd been banned. "If I didn't have handcuffs on I'd fuck you up," he allegedly threatened. "When I get out of jail in nine days, I'm going to come back here and shoot you."
In April 2003, when officers arrested him for begging, he cursed them as "white honkeys."
Three years later, in January 2006, he rubbed his body against a street sign outside of Merwin Liquors at Broadway and Lyndale and reportedly hollered, "Fuck all the motherfuckers!" and "Praise to God!" repeatedly. When officers arrested him, he told them he would kill them with an AK47.
He steals here and there, but mostly, Jackson is just homeless and drunk. If he's aware of current events, his life's only bright spot may have died with the King of Pop.
"He's infatuated with Michael Jackson," Officer Queen says. "He believes they're related because of their last names."
Name: James Junior Smith
Hangouts: Downtown shopping area and 1010 Currie Avenue
History: Usually when Smith tries to get money, it's by panhandling. Forty-one of his 86 arrests and citations involve begging.
He needs the money for a nasty habit that has left a telltale scar on his lips. "He smokes crack so much from the pipe that where the pipe meets his lips on top and bottom are discolored from not letting the pipe cool down," Queen says.
Recently, a cop watched as Smith stuck his hand into a woman's car and demanded money. Apparently, she was stingy. "What the fuck am I going to do with a quarter?" he allegedly yelled at her. Two plainclothes police officers arrested him.
Smith targets people in the downtown shopping areas—along Nicollet Mall and in front of Target. Recently, the city slapped him with geographic restrictions that banned him from being in the downtown corridor. But they haven't made the slightest difference—he was cited with contempt of court for being in the area three times.
The Car Squatter
Name: Richard William Zelinksi
Hangouts: St. Anthony West, Marcy-Holmes
History: A few years back, a Minneapolis cop came across traces of blood in a broken-into car. Immediately, he knew who did it. The cop called his old partner, Elliot Wong, who tracked down Richard Zelinksi. Sure enough, Zelinski had fresh cuts on his hands.
"When I first started dealing with him, he would break in and would camp out in them," Wong says. "When I used to encounter him on a regular basis, it was parked cars in deserted parking lots. He'd be sleeping in there after a heavy rain. It looked like he was having dinner in the car. There was food all over."
Zelinksi isn't the most creative nuisance, but he's consistent. Zelinski has been arrested 10 times for breaking into a car, stealing something from a car, or living in someone else's car. And he doesn't exactly leave a "new-car" smell.
"He may not take several thousand items out of the car, but the car owner has to take the car to be cleaned and repaired," Wong says.
Occasionally, Zelinski branches out and looks for something with less horsepower. In April 2002, some officers caught him in an alley behind 730 Jefferson Street in Marcy-Holmes, staring at a snowblower. He told the cops he planned to take it home, but admitted he "knew he should ask the resident if it was garbage."
The Broadway Boomerang
Name: Trent Smalley
Hangout: Broadway and Lyndale near Merwin Liquors
History: Trent Smalley is the bane of the Broadway business district. He's been cited for trespassing there as well as in abandoned homes throughout the North Side. No matter what officers do, Smalley's behavior doesn't seem to change.
"He's in a wheelchair and he loiters on Broadway Avenue," says Inspector Mike Martin, who is in charge of the North Side. "He sells narcotics, he intimidates people all day long. He stands up in the wheelchair and pops somebody."
In May 2006, two police officers arrested Smalley for panhandling. In protest, he reportedly threw his body—his legs are amputated below the knee—out of his wheelchair and hit the ground, calling the cops "bitches" and telling them to "suck my dick." As the police placed him in a transport van, Smalley reared back his head, cleared his throat, and hawked a loogie at one of the officers, hitting him in the arm.
A couple of months later, in October 2006, police officers found Smalley in front of an apartment building on the North Side, masturbating. When police ordered him to put his hands behind his back, Smalley ignored them until they Tased him.
In August 2008, Smalley was still hanging in the Broadway business district, this time outside the Salvation Army office at 2024 Lyndale Ave. N. Rather than use the restroom inside, Smalley got out of his wheelchair and relieved himself in the low bushes near the building.
"That's a crime," Segal says. "You're not going to want to go the Walgreens where somebody's just defecated."
A couple of months later, Smalley urinated in the parking lot at Merwin Liquors. When the security guard at the liquor store confronted Smalley, he allegedly jumped off his wheelchair, removed his gloves, and tried to fight.
"He's really bad," Martin says. "He's probably one of our most problematic people."
Name: Earl Darling
Hangout: 1010 Currie Avenue
History: Darling dabbles in everything: drugs, alcohol, loitering, assault, theft. His infractions are rarely severe, just frequent. "If you're talking downtown, he's the number-one guy—by far," Queen says.
In December, he allegedly trespassed twice at the IDS Center. He's been cited more than a dozen times for consuming alcohol in public, and for narcotics or possession of drug paraphernalia. He's not aggressive with police—he just never goes away.
Most of his offenses are laughably petty. Darling has ordered drinks and then not paid for them. He stole a $2.20 box of pasta from Macy's, a $5.79 pack of Newport cigarettes, and $2.20 AA batteries from Kmart. He urinates in public. He walks around drunk and high. In March, he allegedly beat up an 18-year-old security guard who woke him from a nap in the skyway.
People like Darling "don't get jobs," Palmer says. "They're criminals. They don't commit one crime a week—this is what they do full-time."
Name: Krissy Annmarie Stillday
Hangout: Franklin Avenue
History: In most ways, Stillday is just another Franklin Avenue crackhead. "The reason people see them all the time—they're hustling customers all day," says Blayne Lehner, who patrols the area. "They're running drugs for the dealers."
Stillday stands apart only because of how energetically she supports her habit through prostitution, and how whacked-out she gets when she's on the pipe.
"There's lots of female prostitutes/drug users out there," Lehner says. "She's one of the worst, because when she gets really high, it's all about finding her next high. She'll work really, really hard—whether it's running the drugs for the dealers or prostituting herself—to get the next $20."
In October 2000, when she was 22, Stillday was busted for soliciting an undercover police officer. Four years later, she was walking down Third Avenue South, eight months pregnant and allegedly high on crack. A couple of cops walked up to her as she fidgeted and swung her arms about. As they approached, Stillday reached under her shirt near her left breast. She was scratching, she told the cops. They arrested her on a warrant and found a crack pipe in her bra.
A few years after that, in April 2007, cops watched as she stuffed a crack pipe up the left sleeve of her shirt and cocaine up her right sleeve, according to the police report.
When officers try to question her, Stillday appears to be on another planet. "She can't remember anything," Lehner says.
The Skyway Jerk-off
Name: Jarvis Lamont Singletary
Hangout: Franklin and Portland Avenues
History: Singletary fancies himself a bit of a ladies' man. Unfortunately, women aren't very receptive to his advances. And who can blame them—he's not exactly Prince Charming, what with the chronic crack habit. Sixty-one of his arrests and citations involve narcotics.
Singletary's record includes a proclivity to the lewd and lascivious. In 1998, he passed a woman in the downtown skyway and reached out and grabbed her crotch. Three days later, he was accused of assaulting two more women in the same manner. When one of the women confronted him, he laughed and stuck out his tongue at her, wiggling it from side to side. Singletary told the police investigator that "this was a common way for him to meet women" and that "women sometimes like being grabbed on the vagina and then he begins to talk with them." As the investigator interviewed him, Singletary allegedly admitted molesting 15 to 20 women in downtown Minneapolis.
In 2005 and 2006, Minneapolis ladies twice caught Singletary masturbating in the skyways. He has another arrest for making sexual remarks at a woman who was passing him.
"He was just an addict," says Lehner. "Constantly exposing himself. He'd sit on people's porches and masturbate."