A two-day crime spree spanning much of south Minneapolis targeted primarily Spanish-speaking construction workers who had money and other valuables stolen, officials said.
The daytime midweek thefts and robberies Nov. 1-2 totaled roughly a dozen and sometimes occurred at gunpoint, Minneapolis police said.
"Some arrests have been made, but these incidents continue to happen" in south Minneapolis, according to a police advisory issued over the weekend.
Officers in north Minneapolis spotted an SUV on Nov. 3 "that had been used in several of the offenses," gave chase and ultimately arrested two boys, ages 17 and 14, police records showed.
The advisory added that some of the victims reported the suspects to be male and female juveniles and at times were part of large groups.
Along with cash, items stolen included weapons, power tools, wallets and passports.
Spanish speakers might be targeted for various reasons, said police spokesman Aaron Rose.
"Maybe they are uninformed about how the law works," Rose said. "Spanish-speaking construction workers often carry cash and store valuables in their vehicles. "They also might have an aversion to the police from previous experiences in their home country."
Also on his list was the possibility of being reluctant to going to law enforcement "for fear of getting themselves in trouble here," a point he declined to elaborate on further.
Rose said MPD Inspector Jose Gomez has reached out to Spanish-speaking communities and visited the Mexican, El Salvadoran and Ecuadorean consulates "to warn them about this issue."
Police said the spree was perpetrated in the following neighborhoods: Central, Diamond Lake, Hiawatha, Howe, Keewaydin, Kingfield, Longfellow, Lowry Hill, Lowry Hill East, Phillips and Stevens Square.
On Nov. 1, the string of crimes started with an attempted theft and an auto theft about 75 minutes apart in the 4300 block of S. Garfield Avenue, according to police.
The criminal activity ramped up the next day with 10 thefts or robberies occurring within a five-hour period from 11:30 a.m. to 4:25 p.m., police said.
The first of that day's crimes occurred outside a house in the 2500 block of S. 11th Street, prompting one worker to fire his nail gun at two armed would-be robbers, a police report said.
Later that afternoon outside a house in the 6100 block of S. 10th Avenue where work was being done, a construction business owner told police he and two people with him had a slew of items stolen from his pickup truck by a person who arrived there with others in an SUV.
The thief made off with credit cards, two driver's licenses, a cellphone and a laptop computer, according to the police report.
As of late Monday afternoon, police have recovered a stolen SUV driven by one or more of the suspects, a victim's identification and two guns, Rose said. He was unsure whether the guns were stolen from the workers or whether the suspects acquired them through other means.
Police are urging people to take these precautions to thwart thieves:
- Always lock vehicle doors.
- Never store a passport, driver's license or other personal identification in your vehicle.
- Document work tool serial numbers for recovery purposes.
Anyone who has hired a contractor should alert their workers about the recent crimes.