With improved infrastructure and community programming, members of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood are using both practical and creative crime prevention approaches this summer.
Through a grant from the city of Minneapolis, the West Bank Business Association will place safety lights in lowly-lit areas on Cedar Avenue South beginning next week. The city will also upgrade existing street lights in the neighborhood to LED lights. Residents and business owners hope the extra lighting, along with events held by WBBA throughout the summer, will help prevent crime and promote business in the neighborhood.
Joining the 15 to 20 safety lights will be two creative lighting pieces by artist Fue Vang, designed to looked like gas lanterns, according to WBBA Executive Director Jamie Schumacher. The new lights are funded by the Great Streets Business District Support Grant Program, she said.
Russom Solomon, owner of the Red Sea Bar and Grill and WBBA safety committee chair, said he believes darker areas generally tend to result in increased criminal activity. Brighter lights will have the opposite effect, which will in turn benefit businesses in the area, he said.
“It will prevent theft and mugging, and people will feel comfortable.” Solomon said. “If people are comfortable there, then maybe people will venture out to businesses. If they are afraid, then they will not.”
The replacement of street light bulbs is part of a citywide project to upgrade traffic lighting. The new LED lights are brighter and 60 to 70 percent more energy efficient, said Public Works traffic engineer Allan Klugman.
Klugman said bulbs used by current street lights can distort colors, whereas colors under the new LED lights are closer to how they look during the day.
In addition to the lighting upgrades, WBBA is bringing back Night Markets on Saturdays beginning July 6, where members of the community will gather to enjoy art, food and music from vendors and performers. Schumacher said the area saw a drop in crime on weekends the events were held last summer.
“We saw that just really kind of light up the darker space for the night with activity,” Schumacher said. “Crime was lower and we think it’s because there [were] positive things happening on the avenue.”
The organization will be holding the Night Markets from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the 400 block of Cedar Avenue South through August 24. The events are supported by WBBA members, the McKnight Foundation and the University of Minnesota’s Good Neighbor Fund. Schumacher said the events bond the community while also serving as a deterrent for criminal activity.
“When there’s something positive going on, it’s bringing people together to do something and creating a space for something positive.” Schumacher said. “It’s not the punitive thing, it’s just like creating that well-cared for environment.”