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Fridley Community Report

The Fridley Crime Experience Revisited

Last April, shortly after the Minnesota Department of Public Safety had released their 2005 crime statistics, we told our readers that Fridley’s crime rate for 2005 grew by more than 35%. Although the number of violent crimes in Fridley dropped significantly in 2006, the overall crime rate for 2006 is only slightly lower than the rate for 2005. Last year we reported that our crime rate, as measured in terms of the number of Part I and Part II crimes per 100,000 people, was 15,965. The rate for 2006 is 15,861 crimes per 100,000 (< 1% lower). This number continues to leave Fridley with the twenty- fifth highest crime rate in Minnesota.

Among the nine cities that are contiguous to Fridley, only Minneapolis and Spring Lake Park have higher crime rates. Fridley’s 15,861 crimes per 100,000 compares with 18,409 crimes per 100,000 in Minneapolis; 17,527 crimes per 100,000 in Spring Lake Park; 14,451 crimes per 100,000 in Columbia Heights; and 14,366 crimes per 100,000 in Brooklyn Center. Crime rates for other contiguous cities include 13,636 per 100,000 in Brooklyn Park; 12,187 crimes per 100,000 in Coon Rapids; 11,738 crimes per 100,000 in Blaine; 10,999 crimes per 100,000 in Mounds View; and 6,105 crimes per 100,000 in New Brighton. The statewide average crime rate for 2006 was 7,725 crimes per 100,000.

Altogether, there were 4,300 crimes reported in Fridley in 2006. This includes 1,513 Part I (more serious) crimes and 2,787 Part II (less serious) crimes. These numbers compare with 4,375 total crimes, 1,650 Part I crimes, and 2,723 Part II crimes in 2005. The five-year average number of total crimes is 4,235. The five-year average for Part I and Part II crimes is 1,542 and 2,679, respectively. The graph shown displays the total number of crimes reported in Fridley over the last six years.

While the number of violent crimes dropped from 125 in 2005 to 86 in 2006, there were 114 violent crimes in 2007. These included 21 rapes, 50 robberies, and 43 aggravated assaults. The five-year average for these violent crimes is 91.8.

In order to combat crime within a climate of scarce resources, the Fridley Police Department has used several strategies. In 2007, the Department operated

several random curfew violation drop-off nights and will likely do so again in 2008. The number of curfew violators, however, does not seem to justify the expense of operating a full-time curfew violations drop off center.

Public Safety Director Don Abbott also reports that he is continuing to use volunteer reserve officers to make prisoner transports for full-time officers. Since this leaves full-time personnel on the streets to respond to calls, this is an inexpensive and very beneficial method of fighting crime.

The Fridley Police Department also views its pawnshop regulation program as a very effective method of fighting crime. As we’ve reported in past articles, the City’s Pawn Detective, Barry Pankonin, has been monitoring the numerous pawn transactions in Fridley’s two pawnshops. Through these efforts, we have recovered many thousands of dollars in stolen property and prosecuted numerous theft cases in the courts.

Another option used to improve the response time of Fridley police officers has been the implementation of an automated ticketing system for traffic offenses. In 2007, the new system, which works through the use of mobile computers in squads, allows officers to complete and print tickets faster and more accurately. This automation has significantly reduced the amount of time needed for traffic stops as well as the time needed for support staff to handle data entry.

The newest effort to fight crime in Fridley is the “Heads Up Project.” This is an effort by the Fridley Police Department to fight crime by making people aware of simple things they can do to reduce their likelihood of being victimized. As this program is started, police and reserve police officers will be placing visible notices—sticky notes—on vehicles or homes exhibiting vulnerability to theft or criminal activity. In the case of vehicles, the Heads Up note will be used to draw the owner’s attention to valuables left in the car or keys left in the ignition. Homeowners could awaken to find a Heads Up note if their garage door is left open overnight. Business owners could receive one when a door is left unlocked. The overall goal of this program is to

reduce thefts by pointing out opportunities for thieves to property owners, who will hopefully modify their behavior and reduce their likelihood of becoming a theft victim.

Yet another effort to combat vehicle thefts, which increased by nearly 75% between 2001 and 2007, has been the creation of a Vehicle Theft Strike Force. Headed by Lieutenant Mike Monsrud, this group of four officers and a Crime Prevention Specialist has been meeting weekly to analyze the locations, times and other circumstances surrounding Fridley’s vehicle thefts and to develop strategies for dealing with these thefts.

One option that was considered last year has been put on hold. After noting that 25% of stolen vehicles had keys left in them, staff considered legislation that would make it a misdemeanor to leave keys in the ignition of unattended vehicles. Although many other cities have passed such ordinances, support for this requirement is very mixed from both City Council and citizens. Generally, there has been a preference for dealing with this problem through education rather than regulation.

As we continue through 2008, the Fridley Police Department will continue to work to find new ways of combating crime in our community. Of course, one of the best ways of combating crime is by having an alert citizenry. If you witness a crime or suspicious circumstances, we ask that you call 911. If you have questions about how you might become involved in the City’s Neighborhood Watch Program, we recommend that you call Special Project Coordinator Myra Harris at 572-3638.

Fridley HRA Continues Quest for Station Site

In our last newsletter, we pointed out that the Fridley Housing and Redevelopment Authority approved a resolution at its January 10 meeting authorizing its attorneys and staff to proceed immediately to acquire by negotiation or eminent domain the 10.6 acres needed for the public purpose of building a commuter rail station and related facilities. Since that time, the HRA staff has commissioned a reappraisal of the property and its attorneys have conducted “good faith negotiating efforts” to acquire the property from the owners. While there is not a lot of new information to report, here is what we do know:

Mark Knoche of BRKW Appraisals conducted the appraisal for the property and found it to be worth $3,165,000. While the appraisal value and offer to purchase exceed the listed sales price of $3,011,000, the owner is contesting the right of the HRA to exercise eminent domain in this instance.

Assistant HRA Director Paul Bolin and the HRA’s attorney on this matter, Rod Krass of Krass Monroe, PA, attended hearings on Tuesday, March 4 and March 11 before District Court Judge Barry A. Sullivan. The Judge has heard testimony from the HRA and the owner, and as of the last hearing, asked the HRA and the owner to proceed with the selection of persons who would potentially sit on a

condemnation panel to decide the appropriate value of the 10.6-acre station site.

According to Paul Bolin, the three-person panel of condemnation commissioners will evaluate the City’s appraised value of the land as well as any competing value that may be brought forward by the owner. The HRA will deposit the amount decided by the panel in a special interest bearing condemnation account managed by the Anoka County Courts and take possession of the land. Paul Bolin estimates that this will occur by the end of April. The acquisition of the land will enable the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to proceed with the construction of a tunnel that will connect property on both sides of the tracks with the future station. If all goes according to plans the tunnel will be constructed over Memorial Day weekend.

Mr. Bolin explains that the money for the property will initially be drawn from the HRA’s General Fund. He is quick to point out, however, that the HRA has succeeded in getting special Tax Increment Financing (TIF) legislation passed during the current legislative session. The legislation will enable the HRA to transfer funds from three post-1990 Tax Increment Districts to cover a portion of the cost of the land. The legislation also will enable the HRA to draw additional tax increment funding that arises

from the development or redevelopment of properties in the vicinity of the station.

While the HRA was successful in getting its special TIF legislation approved by the Legislature, it did not succeed in getting $10.6 million in the State’s bonding bill for construction of the station. Once the land has been purchased, it will now have to look for other sources of funding to build the station.

While the funding is uncertain, the Fridley HRA and staff remain committed to this very important project. They continue to believe that the Northstar station will be key to improving property values in Fridley as well as to providing transportation opportunities to Fridley residents, employers, and employees who commute to and from Fridley.

If you have comments or questions about Fridley’s efforts to acquire a Northstar Commuter Rail Station, please contact Paul Bolin at bolinp@ci.fridley.mn.us.

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