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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Lisa Bender, president of the Minneapolis City Council, is answering WCCO’s questions about crime and safety in the city.
Bender has been criticized by her constituents for not being available or visible during times of unrest in the city. One of those constituents is north Minneapolis resident Liz Cruz, who WCCO spoke with in mid-September.
“Help us, come and see what’s going on,” Cruz said. “We’re not really getting any responses from the mayor or the city council. We feel kind of alone right now.”
Cruz is one of many Minneapolis residents asking for help, and relief, from the gunfire and carjackings. Bender acknowledges what’s happening.
“We have an epidemic of violence that’s affecting young people in our community, and especially young Black men, and we need our whole community to come together to address this violence,” Bender said.
But she says it will take time to find permanent solutions. Some say talk of defunding or dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department led to some of this recent violence. Bender disagrees.
“I stand by the commitment that I made…in Powderhorn Park after George Floyd was murdered by the police. We need a wholly-new approach to community safety in Minneapolis. We need to prevent crime before it happens, and our current system is not working to keep people safe,” Bender said.
Bender and her colleagues proposed a charter amendment that would eliminate the police department and create a new department for community safety and violence prevention. The Minneapolis Charter Commission declined to bring that concept before voters, but Bender hopes to revisit that option next year.
“I think we need to restructure within our city how we’re approaching public safety,” Bender said. “Our experience hasn’t shown that police alone will interrupt these cycles of crime and violence, and that we need a more strategic and effective solution.”
She blames a lack of planning by police and Mayor Jacob Frey, saying their lack of action is forcing the city council to step in.
In a statement, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says he needs the support of the city council in order to maintain peace and safety.
Former city council member Don Samuels believes Bender’s plan does not address the here and now. He says he and others in north Minneapolis are living in a war zone.
“Your number-one job as city leaders is public safety for the citizens of Minneapolis, your number-one job,” Samuels said. “We are not safe, you’re failing.”
Mayor Jacob Frey tells WCCO he and Chief Arradondo have outlined clear and concrete steps taken to respond to gun violence. He says they have worked to implement policy reforms and allocate available resources where they are needed most.