Adding more purpose to block patrols

Lyndale Crime and Drug Committee Chairman Luther Krueger is putting together weekly theme walks to improve the block patrol presence

LYNDALE — Corrinne Ertz rolled her stroller to a stop outside an apartment complex near 33rd Street and Nicollet Avenue and pointed to some busted screens.

Luther Krueger pulled out a pad of paper and started taking notes.  

Drug dealing is more of a problem at the building than torn screens, said Ertz, who was out with daughters Adeline, 1, and Celia, 4. But she said reporting property issues might at least get the city’s attention and improve the look of the place.  

Ertz was among about a dozen Lyndale residents who took part in a recent "311" theme walk around the neighborhood, looking for problem properties and other issues such as inoperable street lights that could be reported to the city through its 311 call center. The walk was the first theme walk suggested by Krueger, the Lyndale Neighborhood Association’s (LNA) Crime and Drug Committee chairman. He hopes to eventually incorporate a new theme walk into the neighborhood’s block patrol program each week to improve community presence on a more regular basis.   

Crime in Lyndale and throughout the city jumped during the past couple years, but has been trending down recently. Krueger, a Downtown crime prevention specialist for the Minneapolis Police Department, said community participation in block patrols usually drops off when crime goes away, but a strong and constant presence on the street would help keep the bad guys at bay.     

"It doesn’t matter whether it’s the police or us; if there are people who are watchful, [criminals are] going to take notice and if [the wrongdoers] don’t belong there, they will leave," he said.

Monthly theme walks went a long way toward battling crime in Lyndale during the mid-1990s, Krueger said. The idea behind the themes is that they add a greater sense of purpose or at least a little fun to each walk, drawing volunteers who wouldn’t patrol otherwise, he said.   

He’s working on getting 2008 booked solid with weekly theme walks ranging from the 311 theme to a dog walk, a holiday caroling patrol and many others. Krueger is even planning to step down from the crime and drug committee, something he’s led for the better part of the last decade, to make sure the walks get done.

The plan is to get individual residents to take ownership of each theme and organize the walks themselves. Lyndale resident Kassie Church did that with the 311 walk earlier this month.

"I’m not much into Halloween costumes and what not so I thought I’d pick something I feel comfortable doing," she said.

Lyndale’s Halloween-themed "Monstrous Night Out" walk is planned for Oct. 22. It’s a walk the neighborhood has done in the past.  

Krueger said the wide variety of planned theme walks should make them all doable, even if only a few people choose to participate.

"If they can only do one night and they only get four or five people, as far as I’m concerned that’s a smashing success," he said.

Other neighborhood organizations are also looking into Krueger’s theme walk idea, including the Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO), which already does roughly six two-hour block patrols a week at various times of day. SSCO Safety Coordinator Dave Delvoye said the organization relies heavily on the block patrol’s interaction with the community to recruit walkers, but he thinks the theme walks are a good idea.

Ertz said she participated in the 311 walk because she’s a good friend of the organizer, but she’s walked before and feels strongly about the community’s role in crime prevention.  

"If we don’t do something about it, the criminals win," she said. "And I’m not OK with that."

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected]