Neal St. Anthony
See more of the story

As workers continue to return to downtown Minneapolis, police say crime has declined from last year's levels, especially since Labor Day.

Steve Cramer, CEO of the Downtown Council and a leader in a coalition of business managers working with public safety officials, said crime is "a serious issue that's getting better."

Jack Farrell, one of the most outspoken downtown business owners about crime and panhandling, agrees that downtown has improved since Labor Day. But he says there's still more to do.

"It's still terrible, and a lot doesn't get reported to police," said Farrell, the 52-year owner of Haskell's Wine & Spirits on S. 9th Street. "Someone has to raise the red flag.''

The numbers back the perception that crime is declining, say city and downtown officials, especially since Operation Endeavor started. Gun-related crimes, carjackings and robberies are down in Minneapolis and downtown from the increases last year and below 2018 levels in some categories this fall.

The initiative — overseen by Cedric Alexander, the city's first community safety commissioner — taps technology, police, nonprofit workers, business volunteers and partner law enforcement agencies to try to prevent gun violence and other street crimes.

The group backing Operation Endeavor pointed to this example: a St. Paul man who was sentenced in late October, the first of a dozen suspects in a ring authorities allege robbed mostly downtown victims of more than 100 cellphones and used their financial apps to drain cash.

But even with a drop in crime, Farrell said he still sees shoplifting in his store. And an employee was mugged returning from a daytime bank run to the nearby IDS Center. Farrell employs security guards and wants more aggressive policing.

Alexander said police are trained to be "constitutional, respectful and legal."

Cramer, a realist but whose job also is to promote downtown, is more positive than Farrell. And he and others say the perception remains worse than today's reality.

"From this time last year, there has been an incredible improvement [in safety]," said Robert Kraemer, manager of the Life Time Work co-working space at LaSalle and Ninth Street.

Kraemer, who opened the business in September 2021, arrived from Life Time's St. Louis Park facility. The St. Louis Park and Edina locations are about 90% full, compared with 30% at his fledgling downtown facility.

"Downtown continues to struggle, partly because of the safety perception," Kraemer said. "The reality has gotten better.''

The Downtown Council estimates, based on employer surveys, that up to 60% of office workers have returned at least part time. Hotel occupancy and nightlife are returning gradually.

Kraemer said he has seen fewer loiterers and greater police presence in recent months.

"The more people we have downtown … the less noticeable is the bad stuff," said Kraemer, a member of the Downtown Council safety committee. "People use it as an excuse.''

He said more than 100 Life Time Work members elsewhere, plus others, just signed up to try a free week of remote work downtown.

The rate of serious crimes in Minneapolis, despite last year's increase, peaked in the 1990s. That fact, though, doesn't matter if you just got mugged.

Perception is still an issue.

"The workday hours are very safe in large part," Cramer said. "The dangerous crimes for the most part happen between midnight and 4 a.m. [in the Hennepin Avenue-North Loop entertainment district]. Minneapolis isn't alone in that among big cities.''

Alexander said he's pleased overall with the results of Endeavor. Gun-related calls are down by 30% this fall from 2021 and carjackings by more than two-thirds.

Minneapolis police Cmdr. Jason Case said Endeavor uses better communications technology across several agencies, including trained street and skyway interveners.

Minneapolis lost more than 250 officers to retirements, resignations and disability claims from an 800-member force after the riots that followed the police killing of George Floyd in May 2020.

There are 49 police recruits, cadets and unarmed community service officers entering MPD into 2023.

Alexander, a former Miami police officer, public administrator and psychologist, is encouraged but cautious over recent, multipronged traction on crime. Long-term success also requires more people working and recreating downtown.

Commerce — and more eyes on the street — help deter crime.

"I'm trying to meet the challenge of the task one day at a time," Alexander said. "I'm inspired by the people in this community, including the business community, who are committed to make this a great city. And 550 Minneapolis police officers."