5th Precinct leads the city in violent crime reduction

The 5th Precinct’s crime stats in Southwest Minneapolis are standing out at the moment — violent crime is down 14 percent year-to-date as of Aug. 24. Other Minneapolis precincts are seeing an increase in violent crime or holding close to the prior year’s stats.

In the 5th Precinct, crime is down in every category except auto theft (up 13.5 percent) and arson (up 183 percent with 17 arson incidents to-date in 2015 and six at this time in 2014).

Insp. Todd Loining said police saw a pattern of arsons early in the year, believed to be young kids lighting fires in park trash cans.

Property crime is down citywide.

Loining said the biggest issues police are working to combat are burglaries of homes (driven in part by unlocked garages and open windows), shoplifting, theft from vehicles and robberies. He said the robberies generally occur at night. He urged residents to walk in numbers and put away phones, which are a draw for robbery suspects.

A homicide that occurred May 10 on Pillsbury Avenue north of Lake Street is still an open case and under investigation, Loining said.


Man drowns Aug. 16 at Lake Harriet

 The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office spent hours working to recover the body of a 43-year-old man who drowned at Lake Harriet Aug. 16.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the man was swimming near a floating dock on the north side of Lake Harriet when he went under, and didn’t resurface. A family member and witness called 911.

The Medical Examiner’s Office had not yet released the man’s identity at press time.

Lake Harriet’s North Beach was also the site of a near drowning the evening of June 10, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Two young women ages 17 and 20 went underwater while trying to reach the floating swim dock. The teenager made it out of the lake on her own. A witness found the other victim underwater and pulled her ashore, where she was given CPR.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children under age 5 (one or both parents were nearby in 70 percent of young children’s drowning cases), and is the second leading cause of accidental death for older children.

The Sheriff’s Office offers the following tips for water safety:

— Drowning is typically a silent event; the victim doesn’t splash or yell. Parents should continuously watch children in or near the water.

— Do not rely on water wings or inflatable devices.

— Weak swimmers should wear life jackets.

— Kids should learn to swim by age 4.

— Learn CPR.


Penalty increases for reckless driving that causes harm

 A new law raises the penalty for severely injuring another person while committing a reckless driving offense.

 The new gross misdemeanor penalty could mean up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine for a driver who consciously disregards a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” that may result in harm.

The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota advocated for the bill for several years. In a press release, BikeMN said the new law would have applied to the case of Bikram Phuyel, a young boy who was critically injured in St. Paul last year. One driver stopped to let him cross, according to news reports, while the next driver sped around the stopped car and struck the boy.

“The county attorney was only able to charge the driver with a careless driving misdemeanor. There have been several other crashes in recent years that caused fatalities and critical injuries where this law would have applied,” stated the release.


Crime alert in Lyndale neighborhood

Police issued a crime alert following a sexual assault July 25 on the 3300 block of Pillsbury.

The suspect entered the woman’s home, police said, and the assault occurred at 3:45 a.m. Police described the suspect as a black male about 6 feet in height, with a light build and age 18 to 21.

Police said they were investigating whether or not the incident was random. When contacted in early August, crime prevention specialist Jennifer Waisanen said the incident was still under investigation.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Sex Crimes Unit at 673-3081.

Minneapolis crime stats as of Aug. 24 indicate 25 incidents of rape in Southwest Minneapolis’ 5th Precinct year-to-date. The number is down 32 percent from 2014 as well as 2013.


Surveillance camera network

Minneapolis Police are asking local businesses to link their surveillance cameras to a security network so police can instantly access footage following a crime.

The network was used on St. Patrick’s Day this year when fights and disturbances downtown led to rioting charges. Police said they immediately accessed 61 cameras, and 21 other local businesses also provided video footage.

“If you think of something like the Boston bombing, investigators had to go door to door asking who owned cameras and how to obtain the video. Through programs like this, the process is all automated and much more efficient,” said MPD Commander Scott Gerlicher in a statement.

Police have installed hundreds of cameras in the city, but they often rely on business surveillance as well. Gerlicher said it can take hours or days for investigators to walk through a crime scene, find cameras, and figure out who owns the footage.

The SafeLink system is free via Minneapolis-based Securonet. The cameras don’t provide an ongoing live feed to police, according to Securonet. Police contact businesses to request video relevant to a crime.

For more information, visit mpls.securonetservices.com.