For the Somali community of Cedar-Riverside, the impact of misconceptions about crime hits home.
Neighborhood residents met at the Brian Coyle Center on Tuesday to discuss crime and resources available to victims during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which ran April 6-12.
Minnesota hasn’t observed National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in four years, said Carla Nielson, crime prevention specialist for Minneapolis police’s 1st Precinct, which covers the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. Doing so this year is a way for police to interact with and hear the concerns of the immigrant community, she said.
Amano Dube, director of the Brian Coyle Center, said that Cedar-Riverside has one of the lowest average incomes in Minneapolis, which can result in fewer or less accessible resources for crime victims.
“Like in any other neighborhood, we witness victims of crime, from the simplest to the worst,” Dube said. “We have come a long way … but this is something that exists every day.”
About 50 people attended the meeting, many of whom were Somali women.
“We want to bring awareness to the community,” said Miski Abdulle, the Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project programs manager at the Brian Coyle Center.
Abdulle, who is Somali, oversaw a resource fair at Brian Coyle, where victims of crime could learn about services available.
“Many immigrants, and especially those in Cedar-Riverside, have low incomes,” University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor and immigration expert Katherine Fennelly said. “They don’t have many resources.”
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman spoke about recent crime in the neighborhood and said he was “concerned” with the number of juveniles charged with wrongdoing, which he said numbered about 7,500 across Minneapolis last year.
Freeman said he “was caught doing something stupid” when he was young and doesn’t want other young people to be jailed for petty crimes.
But he said watchfulness for felonies is important, and it’s necessary for community members to look out for crimes and tell police about them.
Dube said he understands the merits of such surveillance but said it’s difficult for the neighborhood to monitor crime all the time.
Often with increased scrutiny, Fennelly said, it’s easy for people to jump to conclusions.
“If a report says a person had an accent or dresses differently, people will generalize an entire community,” she said.
Alice White, a Minneapolis police officer and East African engagement liaison, also spoke at the event and encouraged the crowd to use Tip 411, the app that the Minneapolis Police Department launched in 2013 for anonymous tips.
“If someone’s watching at all times for everything, even minor crimes, people will know the community won’t tolerate that,” she said.
A main topic of the night was bringing balance to the neighborhood by lowering crime levels and not blaming victims, speaker and resident Amira Hussein said.
Contrary to what some may think, Fennelly said, immigrants are less likely than non-immigrants to commit crimes.
“These are the people who are the victims,” she said. “Immigrants are aspiring to a better life. They choose to come. They have more reason to keep their noses clean.”
Despite the recent concern about crime in the University of Minnesota area, Cedar-Riverside crime has been steadily dropping in the past few years.
The Cedar-Riverside/West Bank Safety Center has operated in the neighborhood for two years. Nielsen said she hopes the center and events like the one Tuesday will cause crime to continue to decrease.
“Hopefully, we’ll have weeks like this annually,” she said. “We want to give voices to people we often forget.”