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There is a "split-screen" quality today to public safety in downtown Minneapolis. A recent Star Tribune article ("In Minneapolis, downtown in back. So is the violent crime," July 31) emphasized criminal behaviors that are clearly part of that picture. But for a balanced and complete understanding, more information is necessary.

Assaults, gunfire and other mayhem at any time or location in Minneapolis can't be tolerated. Full stop. It's important context, however, that over half of violent offenses this year in downtown have occurred on weekends and are concentrated between the hours of 1 and 3 a.m. in a very small geographic area. There is an intense focus on making those days, times and locations safer. The truth is we need to do better on this aspect of safety.

It's also true that for vast areas of downtown most of the time, exposure to the types of crime described in the article is very limited.

One premise of the article, that the downtown economy is on the upswing, deserves additional attention. Here are a few facts to bolster that point.

  • Office use has risen to 56% on a regular basis, up almost fivefold since the Downtown Council started tracking this metric in early 2021.
  • Well over 400 restaurants, retailers and other service businesses are open in the downtown core, double the amount since the depth of the pandemic, with more opening or extending hours every week.
  • Hotel occupancy, driven in part by the return of large conventions this year, has recovered to near pre-pandemic levels.

It's been a difficult two-plus years, and we have a long way yet to go. But because the downtown economy is stronger now than it's been since COVID hit, there is another part of the split-screen picture that should be emphasized. People are coming back downtown and doing so safely.

Large civic gatherings during the recent Aquatennial celebration brought tens of thousands of people to Nicollet Mall for the Torchlight Parade, to fireworks over the Mississippi and to other incident-free events. Other gatherings like the 50th Anniversary of Pride and this year's Stone Arch Festival to name just two were also huge successes.

The Minnesota Orchestra's summer programming outdoors in the restored Peavey Plaza is delightful. Fans and patrons are flocking to sports, music and theater venues throughout downtown, which will collectively sell in excess of 5 million tickets this year. It's not easy to get a reservation for our award-winning restaurants.

And the downtown residential population continues to grow — now in excess of 55,000 — with more on the way based on the pipeline of new apartment and condominium projects. None of this would be true if downtown, overall, was a foreboding environment.

It's also important to understand the full range of tools at work to make downtown as safe as possible. As the article pointed out, the number of officers working at the First Precinct is lower than it has been or should be. Building back the Minneapolis Police Department in numbers and culture is an essential priority that won't occur quickly.

As someone who is downtown nearly every day, I am personally grateful for the dedication and effective work I see on display from law enforcement personnel who are present, including from MPD, Metro Transit Police, the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and, more recently, state agencies. But they need help now more than ever.

The downtown business community supplements their work by supporting a growing number of non-policing strategies that offer a better response to many situations and help fill gaps in coverage. These include street outreach with community and clergy-based groups, a partnership with Hennepin County to bring needed mental health, addiction and other social services directly to people in need, coordination with private security resources downtown, and constant information sharing coordinated through the Downtown Improvement District's Safety Communication Center.

Even with these tools in hand, made possible by both public and private investments, no one can promise that life downtown will be free of concerns about public safety. That's never been a promise that could be made. Moreover, events across the region, state and country suggest we aren't the only community facing this reality.

What downtown leaders can promise is to never acquiesce to a "new normal" of violent behaviors and other conduct that is simply unacceptable in a civil society. To nurture the continued recovery of our downtown, confronting the safety picture with candor, resolve and a comprehensive strategy is job one. Part of that strategy is to be recognize that an active, people filled downtown is not only increasingly a part of the current picture, but also a key aspiration for the future.

By fulfilling that aspiration, downtown will be safer for everyone.

Steve Cramer is president and CEO, Minneapolis Downtown Council and Downtown Improvement District (