Law of the jungle anyone?
Minneapolis residents in some areas still recovering from rioting and unrest are forming community watch and security groups, some bearing firearms, to fight a surge of crime in the wake of the George Floyd killing in May. At least one neighborhood has put up barricades to keep away outsiders.
The moves come as the city council on Friday approved its first permanent cuts to the police budget, amid calls to defund the department and generally lower tax revenue due to the economic strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The $193 million police budget will be cut by $10 million, including making permanent some temporary spending measures—including a hiring freeze—put in place in June. Around $1 million from the police budget is being shifted to a program called Cure Violence that tries to prevent things such as retaliatory shootings through community engagement.
The council had initially backed the idea of supporting the community watch groups with money for things like T-shirts, walkie-talkies and training, but that didn’t end up in the final budget.
“We’re not trying to create an armed force to replace the police department,” said Graham Faulkner, an aide to council member Alondra Cano, who had proposed shifting funds to support the community watch groups. “We’re trying to support the groups that are out there.”
The council earlier approved a proposal that could end up on the November ballot to replace the police department with a new department of community safety and violence prevention next May. Many details of the proposed new agency remain to be worked out, such as whether it would have an armed criminal-justice component.
Police say crime has surged in the months since Mr. Floyd’s May 25 killing, in which a now-fired officer was captured on video with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for an extended time. Shootings more than tripled in June to 75 from 24 a year earlier. In the first half of July, there were 43 shootings, compared with 29 in all of July 2019.
Police say the increase in crime follows a pattern seen in Ferguson, Mo., and other places where there have been high-profile officer-involved deaths and protests. Police say that, while some in the city seem to believe police have given up, officers remain on patrol throughout the city.
As riots played out across the city in late May and early June, a group of Black gun owners responded to a call from the local NAACP and patrolled the mostly African-American West Broadway business district for 10 nights, keeping the area free of looting or arson without firing a shot, said Jamil Jackson, a leader of the group called the Minnesota Freedom Fighters, which advocates for Black gun ownership.