Arneson bids farewell to the 5th Precinct

The Minneapolis Police Department’s former Southwest commander is now in charge Downtown

The Southwest arm of the Minneapolis Police Department lost its longtime leader, Insp. Kristine Arneson, this month when she took on a new job as commander of Downtown operations.

Arneson requested the new gig after Downtown Insp. Janeé Harteau was promoted to deputy chief of patrol, another move that happened this month.

“I wanted to be in a position where I was challenged and growing again,” Arneson said. “I could have retired at the 5th Precinct and that would have been great, but in my life I’m looking to continually grow.”

Former Southwest sector Lt. Eddie Frizzel, who most recently oversaw training for the police department, took Arneson’s place.  

Arneson spent nearly two decades working her way up the chain of command in Minneapolis before making it to the top of the 5th Precinct, her first role as an inspector. During her half-decade of service in the area — a long term when it comes to police positions — she was recognized as a community partner and an effective leader whose strategies reduced violent crime significantly during her tenure.

Changing a reputation

Arneson inherited the 5th Precinct in 2004, when it had a reputation for robberies. Battling that crime immediately became her focus and remained so throughout the bulk of her time in Southwest.

She kept a constant eye on where robberies were happening and moved officers accordingly to “focus zones” until arrests were made and the crimes stopped. The focus zones shifted constantly and progress was initially slow, but the strategy eventually worked. Since 2007, robbery in the 5th Precinct has dropped almost 47 percent.

“I’m really proud of the precinct for really getting on board with that goal,” Arneson said. “It took us a long time, but I think in law enforcement, you can’t take a swing and miss. You have to work at something for a very long time, it has to be institutionalized in the community and in the police department.”

Arneson faced plenty of challenges in the 5th Precinct, including the shocking, random 2006 murder of Michael Zebuhr in Uptown and the negative perceptions of the area that followed. Those fears largely subsided after Arneson returned day and night beat officers to the area.

Those officers were among several throughout the precinct returned to beats vacated when budget cuts hit the police department hard in 2003. Arneson spent much of her time piecing together the right team. Many of her higher officers only stayed for a short time, but she said that’s not because they couldn’t do the job.

“I worked very hard at getting the right people, the right staff in there,” Arneson said. “When you have good lieutenants, they always pull them from you. I count on the community to give us feedback, too. Putting together a great staff was one of my biggest accomplishments.”

Another item on that list of accomplishments was the development of a new method for gathering evidence in domestic assault cases — a protocol that increased convictions 22 percent in its pilot year and has since become a citywide standard.

The inspector also recently organized a group aimed at reducing violent crime among Southwest’s Somali youth.

Her latest battle is with burglary, a trend that is down from previous years in the Southwest, but not to the extent of other crimes. Garage, home and business burglaries, most unforced, are still a regular occurrence throughout the precinct and Arneson has been working to get community members on board with prevention efforts.

“Crime prevention is number one,” Arneson said. “The community, the people who live here, can do so much to help themselves. When you know your neighbors, you have a stronger community.”

A community partner

Collaborating with Southwest residents, neighborhood groups and businesses on crime fighting initiatives was something Arneson made a habit of doing.

“She really empowered us to go out and form coalitions,” said 5th Precinct Crime Prevention Specialist Tom Thompson, whose job focuses on community outreach in several Southwest neighborhoods. “She’s very much about forming coalitions of community members.”

Thompson said efforts including a court watch group and an organization dedicated to revitalizing the Nicollet Avenue corridor formed with Arneson’s backing.

Dave Delvoye, safety coordinator for the Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO), said the neighborhood was in rough shape when Arneson started because of police budget cuts that resulted in the loss of the neighborhood’s beat patrol. Livability offenses were increasing dramatically, neighbors were complaining and no plan was in place to fix the problems, Delvoye said.

The SSCO safety committee met with Arneson soon after she started to resolve the situation. The solution was day and night narcotics teams and temporary beat officers funded through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program.

“She heard us and within a month had a plan in place,” Delvoye said.

In 2005, Arneson returned the full-time beat patrol and later dedicated one officer to livability crimes along both sides of Franklin Avenue, where neighborhood concerns were again surfacing. Arrests skyrocketed and crime in the area dropped 70 percent from the previous year.

Delvoye said the neighborhood is a much safer place today than it was five years ago.

“I attribute a large part of the reason to Insp. Arneson’s willingness to listen to us, come up with a plan and actually follow through and assign people,” he said.

Marian Biehn, executive director of the Whittier Alliance, said she didn’t always agree with Arneson, but she always felt the inspector was listening and cared about the community’s concerns.

“She has been really both generous with her time and her interest in hearing neighborhood concerns and offering recommendations on making changes,” Biehn said. “She’s been a good community-sensitive inspector.”

Biehn said she wasn’t surprised to hear that Arneson was moving on. Inspectors often don’t stay more than a few years in one place. But having consistent leadership for five years was a boon for the neighborhood, she said.

“We get good inspectors for the most part,” she said. “But they are also good in the fact that they end up being groomed for higher positions, so it’s kind of good news bad news.”

A top cop swap

Insp. Frizell, who took over for Arneson this month, worked for nearly two years as a lieutenant in the northernmost neighborhoods of Southwest.

He’s started with the Minneapolis Police Department 17 years ago as a beat officer in the 3rd Precinct and has worked in a variety of positions throughout the city since. As was the case with Arneson, the 5th Precinct is Frizell’s first assignment as an inspector.  

He said he already knows the area and many of the precinct staff and community members well and he’s looking forward to returning to Southwest.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to go back to the 5th Precinct,” he said. “The individuals there made a lasting impression on me.”  

Now Downtown, Arneson said her goals are largely the same — crime prevention and community collaboration.   

“It’s a huge business community Downtown and it’s very important to the city of Minneapolis and the state,” she said. “I think how Downtown goes, the rest of Minneapolis goes and the state goes.”

Former 1st Precinct commander Harteau said Arneson’s success working with a variety of business and community groups in the 5th Precinct will help her in the transition. Arneson said she feels prepared for the new role and ready to let go of Southwest.

“I really feel like I’m leaving a very strong precinct behind,” she said. “And going into a strong precinct that’s very well run.”

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