Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo acknowledged what downtown Minneapolis restaurant owners have been stressing: If our downtown fails, so goes the entire city.
The chief spoke on a video call with a handful of restaurateurs representing a group of around 40 advocating that the city devote more police resources to making downtown both safe and a viable destination again.
It’s no surprise that both the perception and the reality of crime in the downtown has affected restaurants’ businesses. Tim Murray, a third-generation restaurateur at Murray’s on South 6th Street, shared with Arradondo that patrons have told him they are afraid to come downtown to dine. David Fhima of Fhima’s MPLS said it was a deterrent to diners at his restaurant to see the City Center across the way boarded up like an abandoned eye-sore.
The group also shared various stories from the businesses’ employees on how they had been hassled or felt unsafe coming and going to work.
One of the more heartfelt accounts was from an employee with Jester Concepts, who has taken it upon herself to help her fellow co-workers avoid being harassed on their way to their cars or homes.
“It sounds cliche, but it is true when people say they never think it would happen to them. And although my situation was much milder than what could have been, it was enough of a wake-up call that my personal safety felt threatened. Since then, I have made it a habit to check in with anyone close to me that I know is working late,” she said in an email. One way she accomplishes this is to check to ensure everyone has someone to walk with them to their car and some sort of safe transportation home.
“If not, I will always make myself available to them,” she wrote. “Pushing my bedtime as far as two hours later than anticipated is a ‘couch cushion change’ payment compared to someone not feeling safe. Feeling safe when leaving work should not feel like a privilege.”
While the city council was still wrestling with its budget to fund some of the safety measures the group is pushing for, we reached out to the police department for a list of some safety measures. Many are common sense, but in a time when nothing seems to make sense, we’re listing precautions that just might save your purse, wallet or car from being stolen. And even more important, keep you out of harms way.
Going to and from work
• Keep the doors to your car locked when you’re inside. This prevents someone from opening your door to grab you, a bag or phone.
• Be aware of your surroundings, look at who and what is around you and take note of anyone approaching you or your car. A person looking down at their phone is much easier to surprise.
• Notice what’s happening to others around you; call 911 if you see signs that someone is being threatened or assaulted. Make a note of license plate information, as well as vehicle and suspect(s) descriptions so responding officers know who or what they are looking for.
• Never leave your car running and unattended and never leave a key inside a parked vehicle.
• Keep some distance between you and a stranger who approaches you.
• Be wary of strangers with a question; it may be a ruse to get close enough to you to grab you or your belongings.
• Don’t carry your cell phone in your hand. Keep it out of sight in an inside pocket or zipped in a bag. And don’t allow anyone else to use it, or you may lose it.
• If you carry a purse, consider a cross body bag, fanny pack or travel-style money belt.
• Don’t carry more documents, credit cards or valuables with you than what you need. The loss of a social security card, birth certificate or passport can create more identity theft complications later.
• Whenever possible, ask someone from work to walk you to your car. Or set up a system to call when you’ve safely reached your car and are on your way home.
Keeping your car
• Don’t leave a key or keyless fob in your car—ever. Not in the ignition, the glove compartment, the center console or hidden anywhere in the car.
• Check your owner’s manual for a valet key and remove it from the car.
• Consider an anti-theft device such as The Club.
• Don’t leave personal property visible in a parked vehicle. Thieves don’t know that the bag only has sweaty gym clothes or other non-valuable property in it.
• Don’t keep your passport, blank checks, credit cards, keys, work ID, computers, phones, tablets, guns or anything else of value in a parked car.
• The box for your phone shows the IMEI/serial number, record the model and IMEI or serial number and keep it somewhere safe.
• Activate any search features available on your phone.
• Use pass codes to control access to your phone and to apps for banking, credit cards or other sensitive information. Set the lock time on your phone to a shorter period.
• Record your credit card information somewhere safe so you know how to contact the issuers easily.
• Know how to access your accounts online so you can quickly check for fraudulent activity.
• Carry a small amount of cash and only one credit card with you.
• Taking a self-defense class can increase your confidence and help decrease fear.
• If you do have some form of safety gear, such as pepper spray, make sure it’s accessible when you’re walking AND that you know how to use it properly.