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Minneapolis considers closing alleys to outsiders

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  • Minneapolis considers closing alleys to outsiders

    I understand this isn't quite security-related, but it is rather interesting. For those of you who live an area with alleys, what are your thoughts on this proposal?

    Star Tribune: Minneapolis considers closing alleys to outsiders 8/21/06

    If Minneapolis makes its alleys off-limits to strangers, the new law would be the most far-reaching ever adopted in a major American city, according to one criminal justice expert.
    The City Council is scheduled to vote today on a proposed ordinance prompted by a desire to get muggers, burglars and other thugs out of alleys. The back-alley debate is front and center again, a week after a key city committee did not endorse it.

    According to the Minneapolis City Charter and state law, the City Council has the authority to regulate and control alleys. Other cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Oakland, have gone so far as to close alleys and streets for crime prevention, said Ronald Clarke, a criminal justice professor at Rutgers University.

    Yet if approved, Minneapolis' ordinance, which exempts emergency crews, garbage haulers and inspectors, would be the first city in the United States to restrict pedestrian traffic in all of its 455 miles of alleys.

    Only people who live on the block will be allowed to use an alley. At issue is whether the ordinance -- which would likely classify trespassing in alleys as at least a misdemeanor -- would make them safer for some or violate the rights of others while ruining the chat across the fence and other community interaction.

    Council Member Robert Lilligren wrote the proposal after several residents in Stevens Square, the city's most densely populated neighborhood, complained to him about assaults, drug-dealing and prostitution in alleys.

    "They want it in my part of the world," Lilligren said Wednesday. "This would give the police and the community an additional tool to hopefully eliminate that kind of traffic to help ensure the safety of all of our citizens."

    Clarke, on the other hand, said a more targeted solution is more sensible.

    "Why does it have to be city-wide? I don't think there is much sense in that," said Clarke, author of a 2002 U.S. Department of Justice report, "Closing Streets and Alleys to Reduce Crime: Should You Go Down This Road?"The best thing to do is to focus on alleys in poor areas that are often exploited for crime," Clarke said.

    Council is divided

    City staff people determined that the council has the power to restrict use of alleys, and the city already bars motorists from using alleys as shortcuts. But the council appears to be divided on whether it's the right thing to do.

    Last week, the council's public safety and regulatory services committee moved it forward with no recommendation, after members were divided 2-2.

    "This is a tale of two cities," said Council President Barbara Johnson during that meeting. She had voted in favor of it.

    At last week's meeting, Rosie Cruz said she supports the proposal. She's tired of seeing the prostitutes harassing her son and loitering near her backyard in the Phillips neighborhood.

    "I'm sick of it," Cruz said.

    But Amy Blumenshine thinks the answer is to get more people into the alleys.

    "I would say we have reclaimed our alley by getting out and knowing more about each other," said Blumenshine, whose Powderhorn Park neighbors have hung their own artwork in their alleys to counter graffiti. "We're for enhancing alleys, instead of fencing them."

    Unfair and ineffective?

    Just hours after voting against the proposal at last week's committee meeting, Council Member Cam Gordon wrote a lengthy and harsh blog post stating that the ordinance will be used as "selective enforcement" mainly against the homeless, poor, those with mental issues and minority group members.

    "This ordinance will not keep 'strangers' out of alleys," wrote Gordon, comparing it to the ban on dancing in the streets the Council revoked earlier this year. "[This] is an opportunity for policymakers to look and feel like we're doing something about the acknowledged crime problem, likely without making any actual impact on crime."

    Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said it wouldn't stand up in court.

    "It's unconstitutional. Because an alley, just like a sidewalk and a street, is open to everybody. It's public property," Samuelson said. "This would open the city up to a lot of legal problems and be a defense attorney's dream, all while making the police's job more difficult.

    "I don't understand how it got this far."

    Bob Miller, longtime director of the city's Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP), said there is no clear-cut answer. He then started speculating which neighborhoods would most likely be targeted.

    "Not in Fulton, Kenwood, Linden Hills, Bryn Mawr, East Isles or Shingle Creek up north," Miller said. "But it probably will in Lyndale, Central, Powderhorn Park, Phillips, Jordan, Hawthorne and Harrison.

    "I guess it's a sign of the times we're living in."


    Terry Collins • 612-673-1790 • [email protected]
    "To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill." Sun-Tzu

  • #2
    Um, does this mean that security officers will not be allowed in alleys? And that it might be armed trespassing? After all, they're not in the exemption list.
    Some Kind of Commando Leader

    "Every time I see another crazy Florida post, I'm glad I don't work there." ~ Minneapolis Security on Florida Security Law

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    • #3
      Does making it illegal to be in alley, even as a ticketable misdemeanor, really cause concern to the prostitute, mugger, or burglar?

      Seems to me they'd just add the ticket as a potential cost of doing business since what they are already doing is in itself an illegal activity.

      It's not like the police would need a further reason deal with these potential problems.

      The simplistic idea that we can solve a problem by just making it illegal is too often the path followed. It normally does not solve the true problem.
      "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle

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      • #4
        Originally posted by aka Bull
        Does making it illegal to be in alley, even as a ticketable misdemeanor, really cause concern to the prostitute, mugger, or burglar?

        Seems to me they'd just add the ticket as a potential cost of doing business since what they are already doing is in itself an illegal activity.

        It's not like the police would need a further reason deal with these potential problems.

        The simplistic idea that we can solve a problem by just making it illegal is too often the path followed. It normally does not solve the true problem.
        That's a very good point. As they say, "Ain't nothing but a thing to me". The City Council is supposed to vote on it tonight, and the ACLU is already preparing to file suit against the city if it passes. The ACLU argues that an alley is no different that a sidewalk or street, therefore should remain open to the public. They are worried that this will set the precedent for the city to start restricting sidewalks and streets to residents as well.
        "To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill." Sun-Tzu

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        • #5
          Originally posted by davis002
          That's a very good point. As they say, "Ain't nothing but a thing to me". The City Council is supposed to vote on it tonight, and the ACLU is already preparing to file suit against the city if it passes. The ACLU argues that an alley is no different that a sidewalk or street, therefore should remain open to the public. They are worried that this will set the precedent for the city to start restricting sidewalks and streets to residents as well.
          While I seldom find myself in agreement with the ACLU types I give them kudos for taking on some of the cases they do - whether or not they are personally repulsed by them (like the KKK and stuff)

          The ACLU may well have a valid point here. IF the alleyways are public property then I could see the city moving from the alleyway to those standing on the sidewalk (after all Mr Burglar has to get into that alleyway somehow).

          Unfortunately the city may find themselves spending quite a bit of the taxpayers money to implement this law. Makes one wonder if some of those tax dollars couldn't be better spend in prevention programs to some degree.
          "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." -Aristotle

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          • #6
            A few years ago my borough began selling the lanes beside some homes to the homeowners, not the ones in the back of the homes but ones that exist between a home & a park for example.
            I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
            Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.

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            • #7
              Live and work in Minneapolis

              I work at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. This whole closing alleys is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

              1. Thanks to the mayor, there are not enough cops in the city to monitor
              the 455 miles of alleys they want to restrict.

              2. How about the judicial system actually putting people in jail for committing
              crimes instead of letting them go.

              We had two cars of rival gangs get into a shootout across our ambulance driveway where the patients are unloaded. Over 20 shots fired! WCCO news, and Fox news I guess showed up while I was marking off shell casings and it still did not make the news. Minneapolis Police released the two people they took into custody downtown, and the two people we took into custody that got out of one of the cars attempting to enter our hospital. All four had lengthy felony records. But the case is not being investigated because nobody was physically hit with a bullet. One ricocheted off of a surgical intensive care unit window with a patient on the other side of it! The police are not investigating it because they don't have the man-power or resources to devote to a "reckless discharge of a firearm" report. (remember, nobody was hit) I don't blame the Minneapolis Police one bit, I blame the mayor for not giving the police department the tools and funding they need. Minneapolis has had the highest violent crime increase (per capita) in the country according to the FBI. New York actually had a decrease. This has all happened since Mayor R.T. Ryback has been in office. Shame on him.
              Apparently a HUGE cop wannabe...

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