Police, city meet with SA over continuing problems

THE WEDGE — Minneapolis police and inspections staff met with managers of the 2200 Lyndale Ave. S. SuperAmerica earlier this month to address chronic problems including a Nov. 22 shooting and a robbery that took place days later.

The 24-hour gas station has been a hot spot for lat-night criminal activity recently, said Insp. Kristine Arneson of the Minneapolis Police Department’s 5th Precinct. From the start of November in 2006 to the end of November in 2007, police records show 184 calls to the station for robbery, theft, property damage, noise and many other reasons.

Roughly 25 percent of those incidents were assaults, something Arneson finds particularly troubling.

“We shouldn’t be having robberies and shootings in the middle of the night there,” she said.

SuperAmerica installed a Westec InterActive high-tech security system complete with video surveillance in March, but an intercom component that allowed station employees to speak directly to customers was removed in November because of noise complaints from nearby residents.

SuperAmerica spokeswoman Linda Casey said that intercom let customers know “they were being watched” and its removal hasn’t improved the crime situation.

“The community basically said they’d rather have crime than the Westec system,” she said.  

Casey said SuperAmerica continues to work with the community and police to reach a solution to the problems. But some suggestions, such as Arneson’s proposal that the gas station close temporarily after bar hours, haven’t been well received by management.

Closing early could allow for more crime because the store would go dark and no one would be around to monitor the area, Casey said. The station would also lose a significant amount of revenue, she said.

“We provide a good service for the neighborhood,” she said.

Arneson said there is an upside to the station’s 24-hour service, but she’s not convinced it outweighs the problems caused primarily by the early morning bar crowd.

“In some ways there are good points to it, and that would be that they are eyes on the street, (the station) should be a safe place to go, they are well lit,” Arneson said. “But I would personally like to see them close down right after bar between 2 and 3 or 1 and 3.”

Nearby resident Steve Benson said he’d like to see the station go a step further, closing from midnight to 6 a.m. Benson said the rowdy late night crowd at the station makes it “essentially a party house.”

“I think it’s a magnet for a lot of problems,” he said.

At the meeting earlier this month, Arneson said police and management did agree on other security measures.

 They agreed to extra police patrols of the station, more no-trespassing signs on the lot, a continued emphasis on the station from neighborhood-supported beat cops and an arrangement that if police make a narcotics buy at the station, a “stay out” letter will be sent to the seller. The station is also looking at requiring a key to get into the restrooms and police plan to have a squad car on site for off-duty officers who work there.

“We’re doing more than they are but they’re also going to go back and evaluate what we talked about and hopefully come up with more ideas and more solutions,” said Arneson, who noted that the station’s owners have been cooperative.

She said the police department can’t make SuperAmerica change its hours, but if enough narcotics buys are made at the station, police could get the city to shut it down completely.

“But that’s not what I’m looking for,” Arneson said. “I want them to be a viable, safe place to go in the neighborhood. I don’t want a SuperAmerica with boarded up windows on 22nd and Lyndale.”  

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