On A Rampage

IF YOU'RE GOING to be walking around in a Minneapolis parking ramp in the near future, you better be carrying ID, car keys, and your ticket. Otherwise, watch out for Minneapolis's finest to inquire what you're doing there, ask you to leave if you don't have a satisfactory answer, and arrest you if they see you again. It's part of a new program by the police department's Community Crime Prevention/SAFE unit to step up enforcement of the city's trespassing ordinance. Under the law, property owners can sign forms allowing cops to kick unauthorized persons out.

SAFE officer Tom Sawina says the ordinance was originally designed to target suspected drug dealers doing business in vacant buildings and lots. But as it expands to parking ramps, SAFE is coming up with another novel technique: handing out photos of "potentially problematic" individuals to ramp owners and attendants. A booklet now being assembled, Sawina says, will feature mug shots of those arrested (not necessarily convicted) for pertinent assault and trespass offenses. In the future, it might even include photos of people stopped for hanging out in the ramps, whether arrested or not. "It just makes it a little harder to be a thief in Minneapolis," Sawina boasts.

In other ramp news, the Minneapolis City Council last week voted to--hold your breath--write a letter to the Star Tribune, alerting it to the "increasing barrage of adult smut ads" in the paper's sports pages. The mailing was the brainchild of First Ward council member Walt Dziedzic, who proudly reports that Star Trib Publisher Joel Kramer responded to the letter on voice mail. Dziedzic's transcript of the message has Kramer saying that "you are raising some good issues that we have been thinking about...I am sure you know we do have some conflicting values at work here."

Dziedzic's agenda is broader than just contributing to the newspaper's letters page. Ever since complaints came in that downtown strip shop Buns & Roses was sticking baseball-card lookalikes under car wipers during Twins games, he's been working on an ordinance against leafletting in city-owned ramps. Dziedzic says his first shot at the ordinance has been killed because "we don't want to violate anyone's First Amendment rights" in public spaces. But, he adds, the City Attorney's office is looking into a new version, "this time dealing more with trespassing. You wouldn't be able to go in there and go from car to car. We just can't have that happen."

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