Last Monday the Daily Standard posted my column “Return to Murderapolis.” The column touched on themes that I’ve written about (with John) for the past three years — violent crime, racial disparities in crime rates and the correlative disparities in law enforcement outcomes, and the crippling failure of Minneapolis’s liberal leaders to confront these related disparities.
I largely avoided reference to crime rates and other numerical measurements of serious crime in Minneapolis. I wanted to provide information an observer could see with his own eyes (including the gang assault captured on a Metro bus videotape), relate it to what the police officer in charge of Minneapolis’s CODEFOR crime prevention program had to say about it, and report some previously unreported information bearing on the subject. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — whom I criticized in the column — did not respond to my request for an interview.
John and I wrote two columns on these themes for the St. Paul Pioneer Press in late 2002. Those columns criticized (among others) Mayor Rybak and then-Police Chief Robert Olson. Rybak and Olson responded (pathetically) to the first of our Pioneer Press columns and also to a column that former Minneapolis City Council member Kathy Thurber had written for the Star Tribune with a theme similar to ours. (Our friends at the Claremont Institute posted links to all these columns under the heading “Firestorm in Minneapolis.” Unfortunately, the linked Thurber and Rybak/Olson columns are now inaccessible on the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune Web sites.)
Our columns created a small stir when they were published in late 2002. John and I were invited to appear on the noontime news/interview show hosted by Kim Jeffries on WCCO radio, a station with a large Twin Cities audience. Kim set aside an hour to discuss the issues and invited Mayor Rybak and Chief Olson to join us. When we arrived at the studio, Kim told us that both Rybak and Olson had declined to appear on-air with us. Rybak’s just that kind of a guy.
Thankfully, we now have David Brauer to stand in for Rybak. Brauer is the editor of the Skyway News, a good free-distribution weekly whose beat is downtown Minneapolis. Brauer responded at some length to my Weekly Standard column in a message that the Standard forwarded to me and that we posted in “Murderapolis: Etymology and blame.” As I read his message, Brauer made two substantive points in response to my column: 1) violent crime is largely under control in Minneapolis, and 2) Republicans are responsible for the problem. I think the points are inconsistent, but the left’s level of discourse on this subject is not high.
In the Standard column I quoted from the article on CODEFOR by my friend Dr. David Pence in the Fall 2001 issue of David’s City Fathers magazine. David inferred what I would have to say about Brauer’s message from what I wrote in the linked post and cautioned me instead to credit Brauer:
I saw David Brauer’s response to you. Let me say a few things. First, remember Brauer is an honest reporter and he will appreciate an honest respect from you. He is not [Star Tribune columnists] Doug Grow or Nick Coleman. He also knows the city better than a lot of people and that is an important attribute we want to encourage in journalists. So first I think you should applaud his willingness to look at numbers and his respect for facts.
So let us add a few facts The legislature that knocked off state aid did it to protect the education elephant — as the Minnesota state senate is controlled by the Democrats it was a bipartisan agreement. In general the big city Democrats when dealing for urban interests versus the mega bureacracy will always protect the bureaucrats (many of whom live in the suburbs) at the expense of the urban poor. The whole emphasis of the Democratic Party on government employees and the sexual left versus urban infrastructure, school vouchers and strong policing for the poorest neigborhoods was a major betrayal of the old urban Democrats by the “new class.”
While state aid was cut the decision to cut police (and not the bloated civil rights department or other frills) was made by the mayor and the council. Mega spenders always treat a reduction of revenue as an assault on essentials rather than an opportunity to cut waste.
About lakeside liberals you were not waging class warfare [contrary to the sarcastic aside in Brauer’s message]. Quite the contrary. Aggressive policing is the most important issue in the poorest neighborhoods (and the northern inner ring suburbs). It is of almost no concern to the lakeside liberals and in Rybak’s campaign in several posh neighborhood house parties I went to — the only discussion of protection and police issues was how do we prevent racial profiling.
Finally, the drop in murders from 98 to 43 [between 1995 and 2001] was a huge drop and if it had continued we would be back to the 1950 levels when the city had 140,000 more people and a lot fewer murders. Crime has slowly dropped but the levels would not be accepted in any suburb and would not have been accepted until the late sixties and seventies. The crime wave peaked and is at an intolerable level now that lakeside liberals and some pundits have found it tolerable.
That is the great shame of urban liberals who accept the gepographic apartheid of violence that makes Minneapolis two cities where the crime is in the poor area and the political culture is dominated by the rich area. We don’t want class warfare. We want the integrated city back where gunshots on Lowry and Lyndale [in north Minneapolis] are really heard on the banks of Lake Harriet [in south Minneapolis].
P.S. Look at my paragraph on the fifties [where David contrasts 1950 and 2000 population and crime numbers in Minneapolis] and remember what people forget — that we were alot poorer then and we had a lot more people(about 520,000 then, about 380,000 now). But in those days we had a fighting liberal who believed safety was the first right of urban dwellers — his name was Mayor HHH.
In my column, with the exception of reference to the increase in murders this year over the same period last year, I avoided reliance on crime numbers to make my point. The numbers are frequently ambiguous and easily manipulated. On the broader statistical points, reader Steve Belmont writes:
David Brauer’s rebuttal of “Return to Murderapolis” substitutes “Part I crimes” for the crimes of violence–e.g., two murders and a vicious assault–that were the focus of your article. He describes Part I crimes as “the most serious” even though this broad classification encompasses relatively minor property crimes like shoplifting and thefts from motor vehicles. Most people would consider violent crimes to be “the most serious.”
The attached excerpts from “Lethal Agenda” [omitted here] include graphs of violent-crime trends in Minneapolis that support your assertions in “return to Murderapolis.” These graphs address the violent categories within “Part I” crimes: murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. (Rates are based on Census Bureau population estimates for years since 2000.)
Mr. Brauer cites some murder data, which are less meaningful to the present discussion than murder-plus-aggravated assault data. A murder is often an aggravated assault with a sub-optimal response by emergency service providers; a small fraction (typicaly about 1 in 40) of aggravated assaults result in death. Neither Mr. Bauer’s aggravated-assault data nor his murder data disprove your central premise.
It’s true that aggravated assaults and murders were more numerous in 1998 and 1999 than in 2004, but in those earlier years they were on a steep decline from the record levels of the mid-1990s. The decline reversed in 2002; this was the first full year of police retrenchment in the wake of the racial profiling charge if my understanding of your article is correct.
Minneapolis’s rate of murder-plus-aggravated-assault rose 13 percent from 2001 to 2002 and 20 percent from 2001 to 2004.
Mr. Brauer joins the mayor of Minneapolis in blaming the GOP for Minneapolis’s budget woes, which are self-imposed by means of poverty-focused housing policies. And Mr. Brauer adopts the “crime-in-Minneapolis-ain’t-that-bad” theme (“the trend is so short-term…”) proffered almost routinely by Minneapolis’s current and past mayors.
Minneapolis’s crime rates dwarf those of its suburbs, where crime is less tolerated by political leaders, and cops are more appreciated.
Apart from crime rates, I wanted to report what has occurred before our eyes in Minneapolis over the past few years. I saw the Minneapolis police chase the gangs off the streets between 1996 and 2000. I have seen the gangs return in greater force since 2001, moving to the heart of downtown this year. Brauer does not bother to dispute this.
Instead, Brauer derides my reference to downtown businesses begging for police assistance to protect customers this spring as a “crime against intellectual honesty” because it lacks a source or a link. I would have been happy to take a call from Brauer and give him a lead or two that might give him a hand on his beat, but he didn’t bother to call.
According to Brauer, “Skyway News (which I edit) reported that police told businesspeople they wanted to work more closely with Downtown’s private security guards to cost-effectively extend public safety.” Brauer is apparently referring to this May 2, 2005 Skyway News article: “Sheriffs, transit cops and security guards work with city police to fight Downtown crime.” What a wonderful world!
Here, on the other hand, is how those who know what they’re talking about speak among themselves about events since this spring in downtown Minneapolis:
A second skyway was hit last night at 10:10 PM by a bullet fired on Seventh Street [the heart of downtown Minneapolis], this time piercing the skyway between [omitted] and [omitted]. On Friday, March 25 a bullet pierced the skyway between [omitted] and [omitted]. Although these glass panes are worth $6,000 each to replace, the financial implications of this go well beyond mere sums like that.
Last night was a violent night in downtown [details omitted]. Unusually large crowds of marauding youth are starting to hang out in downtown this early spring. Police Officers were not on the [location and time omitted] last night because of another fight on Hennepin Avenue at the same time.
Private security forces told me this morning that the 10 AM to 3 AM police focus on 7th Street, Seven Days per Week, a promised outcome in response to shots fired into the windows at [location and date omitted], is no longer in full effect.
I was told of an insulting characterization that somehow the business community isn’t responding effectively to all of this by sending private security officers onto the streets to attend to this situation.
Business leaders…are expressing open feelings of anguish, anger, and disappointment about this today…[A project is underway] with [Minneapolis Police] Chief McManus and [Hennepin County] Sheriff McGowan to fund a proposed multi-jurisdictional task force (reimbursing overtime as necessary) to put more sworn officers on the streets of downtown this summer…
Whenever an elected leader says, “all this is being blown out of context, downtown is safe,” I intend to take them to two of the most important skyways in downtown and show them 45 calibre bullet holes.
Bullet holes in main downtown Minneapolis skyways? Downtown businesses begging for police assistance? I can’t find any report of these events in the Skyway News, though they sound like stories that lie awfully close to the beat of a publication that goes by that name, or even by the name of “Downtown Journal” (which it is soon to be). Mr. Brauer, if you need a source or a link in order to report these stories, feel free to cite Power Line.