Investing in a safe place to call home

I wrote last week about the significant investments that we are making in Minneapolis’ streets, roads, bikeways and critical infrastructure in. Investing in streets is critical — and in this second in a series of emails about my 2013 budget, I’d like to talk about how we’re investing in making them safer.

Making Minneapolis a safe place to call home has been our top priority at the City of Minneapolis for the last decade. In 2012, we are putting 56 percent of all dollars in the General Fund — the fund into which almost all property taxes go, along with Local Government Aid from the State of Minnesota — into public safety.

And this level of investment has shown results: in 2011, violent crime fell 42% compared to 2005, for a 28-year low.

There is much more to do: one violent or property crime committed in Minneapolis is too many, and we face special challenges in fighting illegal guns and the people who arm our children with illegal guns. But Minneapolis is dramatically safer than it was in the last decade, because of the investments we’ve made.

Prevention and partnerships

My 2013 budget will make significant new investments in both police and fire — but before I talk about spending more money, I want to highlight some of the many ways that we are spending effectively the money we already have, through prevention and partnerships.  

  • Using smart technology and cutting-edge analytics, the Minneapolis Police Department has become a national leader in predictive policing. Our police don’t just react to where crime has occurred: we are increasingly able to predict where it will occur and prevent it before it happens.
  • Our Downtown 100 initiative — an innovative partnership between the City, business, nonprofits, advocates and community — has led to a 78 percent decrease in violent crimes committed by chronic offenders downtown, and has just won another national award for our police and city attorneys.
  • Our Youth Violence Prevention initiative that has led to a 59 percent drop in youth involved in violent crime since 2006, and this budget invests in it more. In addition, as we reach the five-year anniversary of our Blueprint for Action, the Police Executive Research Foundation and attorney Andy Luger are launching an independent review of our successes and challenges, and will propose best practices from around the country for us to integrate.
  • Our partnerships with community-based partners have taken tremendous pressure off our police and their budget. None has been more critical to our efforts, and given so much hope at times of great despair, as Mad Dads, led by V.J. Smith. This budget provides a $50,000 grant to help them continue their work to end the destruction caused by drugs and gun violence and heal communities.

Police

This partnership and prevention makes our police more effective, but we need to put our money where our mouth is, so my 2013 budget puts $2.5 million more in the Police Department budget in order to: 

  • Promote our community service officers to sworn officers in September.
  • Hire a new class of community service officers in January.
  • Start a new recruit class to be hired as sworn officers in March.

The goal is for 10 additional officers to be on the streets by next summer when we need them most, after counting the retirements that we expect to happen next year.

Fire

We are also investing in the Fire Department, which an outside report recently praised as efficient and well operated, with excellent response times. This budget invests $1.1 million more for firefighters in this budget and in each of the next five years. I also proposed starting a new firefighter recruit class this year, using one-time 2012 dollars. We are also getting help in hiring firefighters from a $1 million Obama Administration grant.

Investing more in the Fire Department equals planning for the future. Our Fire Department is rapidly aging: in part because we have had historically low levels of retirements in recent years, the average age of a firefighter is now 46. A surge of retirements — a “silver tsunami” — could happen at any point, so we need to be building more homegrown staff for the future. The Police Department faces the same challenge, which is another reason we’re investing there, too.

How we pay for it

Both the Police and Fire Departments are funded almost entirely by our General Fund, which is where most property taxes go, as well where Local Government Aid from the State goes. So when you wonder what your property taxes are spent on, a big part of the answer is that 56% of the General Fund, which property taxes support, is spent on public safety.

Once again, I’d like to know what you think about the budget and our investments in safety. Contact me here or me at rt@minneapolis.org, with “Infrastructure” in the subject line.

 

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