Citing ‘perception of lawlessness,’ Minneapolis business owners ask local leaders’ help to save businesses

While they’re comfortable with following a plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19, “there is no current plan of action” or cure for rising crime rates.

Picture by photojournalist Rebecca Brannon for Alpha News.

Over 40 small business owners and leaders in Downtown Minneapolis are fed up with record-setting violence in the city, and expressed their frustration in a Tuesday letter to Mayor Jacob Frey and the City Council.

“[W]e are in a state of desolation,” the business owners wrote, CBS Minnesota reported.

“It’s not just because of COVID,” they wrote. “When it comes to this virus, businesses have built a weary resilience with a sense of optimism: There are plans to be followed, protective measures in place, and an eventual light at the end of the tunnel.”

The businesses asked for government leaders to help people return to their downtown offices and allow dining at bars so restaurants can survive.

While they’re comfortable with following a plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19, “there is no current plan of action” or cure for rising crime rates.

There have been nearly 60 homicides in the first nine months of 2020, outpacing the 48 in 2019.

About 400 people have been shot this year – a five-year high – and 100 officers have left the department to date in 2020, up from an average of 45 separations per year.

“The numbers speak for themselves, and the vibrations throughout Minneapolis can’t be ignored: Perception begets reality, and the strong feelings of unsafety in our downtown are very real,” they wrote. “No matter which side of the ‘defund the police’ debate you fall on, the absence of communication and transparency about public safety plans creates even more fear, uncertainty and frustration.”

The letter continues: “Our businesses are struggling. Some are failing; several have already closed. Many others have been boarded up for months, yet continue to be hit with rent and property taxes. Our patrons are paying entertainment and stadium taxes, even with no events or activity. We are still supporting the city, but the city is not supporting us. If this trend continues, a city can take decades of work and a major movement to recover. History has proven it, and we need to reverse course before we become a lost city.”

The owners applauded more companies signing leases downtown but said “behind the scenes” many businesses are considering or are moving out.

“We are asking for practices that will encourage a return to business and a return to the downtown offices. We are asking for the city to do its job in the prevention of theft and destruction, with no tolerance for violence and assault. We are asking for support for the businesses that have long served as blocks in the city’s foundation — some even for decades.”

“Our employees and patrons feel unsafe in Downtown Minneapolis,” they wrote. “Crime has increased, and there is a general perception of lawlessness in the city’s core. COVID dealt small businesses a blow, but the downtown safety issues are just as formidable and, after stacking up for several years, have come to a head.”

Frey’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.

“We are asking you to stand up, take action, help us fight, and help us be part of the city’s future to make this city vibrant again before it’s too late,” they wrote. “We need the people back, and we need to ensure their safety.”

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This article was republished with permission from The Center Square