Armatage residents rally after crime spike

ARMATAGE — Concerns about mobile drug dealing and problem properties have riled residents in what is typically one of Minneapolis’ safest neighborhoods.

Roughly 40 community members showed up at the Armatage Neighborhood Association’s (ANA) September crime and safety committee meeting to talk about the trends. The neighborhood hopes to stop the problems before they worsen.

“We want to take care of it when it’s at this level, we don’t want it to bring in more drug dealing, more weapons, more violence, so we want take care of it now,” said ANA board member Tina Erazmus. “We’ve got a great neighborhood and really involved neighbors.”

The large showing at the meeting was unusual for Armatage, which consistently ranks among the safest neighborhoods in the city, according to crime statistics from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). And recent statistics aren’t alarming compared to other neighborhoods; Armatage saw one theft from a vehicle, two larcenies, six burglaries and one aggravated assault throughout the month of August. That’s less than a quarter of the total reports in some of Southwest’s more crime-prone neighborhoods.

But many of the community’s recent concerns about disturbances from some properties in the southern part of the neighborhood haven’t made the reports. Lt. Chris Hildreth, who oversees the section of southwest that includes Armatage, said police need the community’s help to substantiate the problems.

The MPD had no data to show that the properties in question had a history of offenses because the specific addresses were not recorded every time a complaint was made. And some of the issues would be difficult for police to resolve, he said.   

Livability issues such as loud noise, firecrackers and verbal altercations — some instances of which are not illegal or are misdemeanors that require an officer to see the act to make an arrest — are largely up to the community to deal with, Hildreth said.

“With livability issues, it’s going be tough for an officer to put a stop to it,” he said.

The MPD, neighborhood association and City Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) are working together to strengthen communication about crime in the neighborhood. They are also working with the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority to investigate some of the problem properties.

Hildreth said police are working to combat the mobile drug dealing issue throughout the 5th Precinct, sending letters to the owners of vehicles thought to be involved in the activity. Catching mobile drug dealers is difficult, he said, because police have to find drugs on the suspect to make an arrest, even if the description of the car and person are accurate.

Immediate calls to 911 accompanied by detailed descriptions are most helpful when mobile drug dealing is witnessed, so police can try to make an on-site arrest before the drugs are used, swallowed or hidden, Hildreth said.  

Though stopping the drug-dealing trend is a priority, Hildreth said a larger problem in Armatage and other southern neighborhoods in Southwest is burglary, most of which are unforced. He said residents should be to be more vigilant about locking their doors and recording serial numbers off items in their homes and garages. Many items police suspect to be stolen have been popping up in pawnshops lately, he said, but theft can’t be proven unless an item can be traced to a specific owner.

As far as the other neighborhood concerns go, Hildreth said he encouraged residents to continue reporting illegal activity or suspicious behavior in the neighborhood. The MPD plans to stay in close contact with the ANA about the issues, he said.

ANA crime and safety committee chairman Keith Swanson said he hoped concerned residents would continue to attend meetings and stay in touch about the problems.   

“When we get new people like (at September’s meeting) we want to meet them and greet them and hear what they have to say,” he said. “But we also want those people to return and keep coming to meetings.”