MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's been two months since the Minneapolis Downtown Council tried a new approach to making Nicollet Mall safer.
Now, they council says they’re starting to see results.
The program launched after WCCO aired video and personal accounts of the troubles along the mall. Employees have witnessed fights, substance abuse and general unrest.
It’s a different place than it once was, says downtown resident Chyna Clark.
“Anything could happen to anybody at any day at any time, no matter if the sun’s down of if the sun is up, they don’t care,” Clark said.
Another tense scene unfolded on Nicollet Mall Wednesday, with police arresting robbery suspects -- but the green-clad MAD DADS of Minneapolis team was also standing by.
They are part of a three-month program that uses urban outreach workers to deescalate and connect people with resources downtown council. Minneapolis Downtown Council president Steve Cramer calls it successful.
“It didn’t solve all of the problems. It didn't just magically make some of the real challenges that we see downtown go away, but it meant we could respond more effectively to those challenges, and just restore a level of confidence about Nicollet that was lacking earlier this year,” Cramer said.
At first, the program was just focused on outreach workers, like Youth Link Outreach Leader Jose Acuña.
“Our main goal is to intervene and to give the youth, and specifically the youth services, that they can use for the long term,” Acuña said.
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He says the program has had strong coordination from various agencies.
The council soon realized they also needed more support from the Minneapolis Police Department for the more dangerous situations. The program is now a combo, but they say there's only so much they can do.
Foot traffic is way down, but improving. Fewer than 5% of workers were in their offices in March, and now it’s 15%.
“I think ultimately, we’re not gonna see Nicollet return to the way people remember Nicollet until we start to see office workers come back into downtown,” Cramer said.
The council says they just got some big news about the biggest downtown employer. Target won’t be bringing its workforce back until June of 2021.
Outreach workers say they've been able to place a number of people in shelters. The program will run through October, and is set to start back up again in April.