Gerold brings crime-prevention background to top cop position

In 1977, Lucy Gerold started as one of the city’s first community crime-prevention specialists, working in the struggling Wedge neighborhood. On Jan. 14, she became Inspector for the Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct, the commanding officer for 149 sworn officers and civilian employees and responsible for a $36.8-million budget.

She replaces Randy Johnson, who left to become the director of security for Minneapolis Public Schools.

Gerold, 49, headed the Community Crime Prevention/SAFE program from 1983 to 1997, serving as a civilian, she said. She went to the Police Academy and became a sworn officer in 1997. While in the academy, she helped develop CODEFOR, a crime-tracking system that helps police focus resources. She then became CODEFOR’s first director.

She served as Director of the Central Services Bureau from 1998 to the fall of 2000, overseeing CODEFOR, special investigations, the public-housing police and traffic. Until recently she served as the Director of the Internal Services Bureau, with responsibility for the department’s budget, finances, human resources, training, forensics and evidence.

She becomes Southwest’s top cop after only five years on the force, a promotion with advantages and some disadvantages, Gerold said.

"My street experience is very recent and I am familiar with the current level of activity," she said. "I have far more experience than most in working with crime prevention in the community and working with a wide range of partners."

She cites as a weakness her lack of hands-on experience in investigations. She has overseen investigations, but she has never worked as an investigator, Gerold said. She plans to work side by side with an investigator in the near future to get a better understanding of the job.

Gerold graduated from Regina High School and the University of Minnesota with a degree in Housing and Community Development, she said. She is attending Metro State University working on a Masters Degree in Public Administration.

Her current reading list includes a book on Bernard Kerik, the police commissioner of New York City, and "Galileo’s Daughter," a work of historical fiction. Among the Southwest restaurants she likes to frequent are Rainbow in Whittier and Pane Vino Dolce in Lynnhurst.

Gerold is in the midst of attending a number of meetings with her staff, neighborhood groups and City Councilmembers to listen to their priorities.

"I have no list of big changes," she said. "I will listen to cops, I will listen to the community."

A brief history of CCP/SAFE Gerold got in on the ground floor of community crime prevention. In 1977, a law-enforcement grant allowed the city to try crime-prevention programs, and it targeted three problem neighborhoods, she said: Willard Hay, Hawthorn and Lowry Hill East, known as The Wedge.

A Wedge resident at the time, Gerold said a number of the larger homes were broken up into rooming houses and had code violations. The neighborhood had problems with drugs, prostitution and burglary.

She organized block club meetings and business groups to address commercial crime along Lyndale and Hennepin avenues.

She stayed with the program as it grew. It expanded citywide in the early 1980s, and she became a supervisor. The program focused on property crimes until the late 1980s when crack arrived, and crimes against people increased.

"We had to expand," Gerold said. "We had to organize around multiple issues."

Community Crime Prevention operated independently of the Police Force, reporting to the City Coordinator until the early 1990s, she said. Police Chief John Laux brought the program under the department’s Community Services Bureau, which Gerold then headed. She was the civilian equivalent of a Deputy Chief.

In the mid-1990s, the department tried to improve cooperation between civilian crime-prevention staff and police officers, she said. When the 5th Precinct opened in 1998, it was the first to bring the crime-prevention workers and their police counterparts into the same office.

Budget woes Having headed the department’s Internal Services Bureau, Gerold knows well the budget picture she faces.

The department has already had to cut $5.6 million, she said. To save money, it has left 40 sworn officer positions vacant citywide out of a force of roughly 900. By the end of the year, the number of unfilled positions is expected

to reach 80.

The 5th Precinct is currently down 11 positions from its authorized number of both sworn officers and civilian workers, she said, or roughly 7 percent.

The city budget could take another hit, depending on what the state does with local government aids, she said.

Crime had a tick upward in the last quarter of 2001, she told a recent meeting of the Stevens Square Community Organization’s Safety Committee.

"A number of factors go into that," she said. "The fact that we have 40 fewer officers is a factor."

The top priority will be to staff 911 response, she said: "We want to do everything we can to avoid longer response times."