Police to host meeting about mobile drug dealing

An increase in reports from Southwest residents about drug dealing from vehicles has prompted Minneapolis police to organize a community meeting about the problem.

A date hasn’t been set, but Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS) Tom Thompson said it should be decided soon. He said information about the meeting would be distributed on CPS e-mail lists and at neighborhood organization meetings.

"We want to respond as quickly as we can to the neighborhoods’ concerns," he said.

The concern is that unfamiliar cars are driving into Southwest neighborhoods, often during the day, picking up someone waiting in another vehicle or at a corner, and making drug exchanges in transit.

Kingfield resident Ann Berget said she has seen such activity late at night near 42nd Street and Blaisdell Avenue.

"They’re lurking in quiet neighborhoods where they know they won¹t be seen because people are asleep," she said. "And it’s really scary."

She said everyone on her block knows each other, and the behavior isn¹t coming from her neighbors. Berget, who has lived in Kingfield for 27 years, said the activity is relatively new in the area.

Sarah Linnes-Robinson, executive director of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association, said the group just started hearing about the problem this year. She encouraged residents to not only contact police with information about mobile drug dealing incidents, but also the neighborhood organization, which can be reached at 823-5980.

Ann Palmer, leader of the 5600 Blaisdell Avenue block club in Windom, said mobile drug dealing has become a problem in her neighborhood, too, usually during the late afternoon. Her block has been extra vigilant about taking down license plate numbers and car descriptions and calling 911, she said.

"We walk or dog or pretend to pick a weed so we can get a plate and they¹ll usually drive off," she said.

Suspects have been both males and females of various ethnicities, she said.

Palmer is hoping that if residents collect enough plate numbers and other information, some offenders might be arrested.

Minneapolis Police Officer John Hawes, a member of the 5th Precinct¹s Community Response Team (CRT), said residents should record as much information ‹ such as plate numbers, vehicle and suspect description, time and place ‹ as they can about incidents they see and call 911 as soon as possible.

But finding a vehicle and suspect matching a description isn¹t enough to search for narcotics, he said. Police need to see drugs themselves to do a search and make a drug-related arrest.

"The neighbors and the cops all know what’s going on, but we can’t identify specific facts if we didn¹t see dope, if we didn’t see money," he said. "And that’s what you need to see to take it to the next step."

CRT Officer Greg Jeddeloh said heroin is the drug causing much of the trouble in the area. The drug is usually carried in small plastic bags that can be swallowed to avoid police detection.

CRT officers said they usually focus their efforts on busting drug houses to cut off dealing at the source, but they aren’t surprised that residents are concerned about what’s happening on neighborhood streets.

"I understand their frustration," Hawes said.

For more information, contact Tom Thompson at 673-2823 or thomas.thompson@ci.minneapolis.mn.us.

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or jweyer@mnpubs.com.