SAFE officers permanently reassigned out of Southwest

When Police Chief William McManus reassigned three SAFE crime-prevention officers from Southwest's 5th Precinct to patrol North and South side crime "hot spots," he promised it would be just for the summer.

But they're not returning to SAFE this fall.

Fifth Precinct Insp. Kris Arneson confirmed that her officers would return to Southwest, but not to SAFE.

Arneson said the officers would pick up patrol shifts as 911 responders because "they're needed more there." Arneson said the civilian crime-prevention specialists (CPS) were doing well carrying SAFE's workload, with the help of the 5th Precinct's three sector lieutenants.

Some neighborhood leaders disagree.

Lyndale Neighborhood Association Community Organizer Kristine Danzinger says Southwest's crime-prevention specialists are struggling. "Our CPS is doing the best she can do, but she is swamped," Danzinger said.

CPSs also said they're too swamped and can no longer respond to as many community concerns.

Danzinger also has heard resident complaints sector lieutenants often don't respond in a timely manor to inquiries.

Danzinger said she's mad because she feels the Department misled residents about the officers' return to SAFE. "We were told [permanent reassignment out of SAFE] wouldn't happen and now it has," she said.

SAFE -- designed to work with neighbors on home safety, neighborhood awareness and other crime-prevention efforts -- is undergoing a steady attrition. In 2002, 25 civilian-officer teams citywide were cut to 14; Southwest's count was reduced from five teams to three. With the summertime cuts, the teams themselves were halved.

Neighborhood activists and SAFE personnel have long worried that the steady decline means SAFE will ultimately die. However, Arneson said the Department has no plan to eliminate SAFE. Danzinger said she hopes that's true, but adds, "I'm not sure I believe them."