Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Transit Police going beyond the bus in North Minneapolis

Metro Transit patrol officer Sidney Jones didn’t grow up in North Minneapolis. But when he moved here from Kansas City a decade ago he landed squarely in the middle of the community, making his home on Russell Avenue North. 
After experiencing the neighborhood first-hand, Jones jumped at the chance to become a part of Transit Police’s new Northside Community Policing Team.
“I grew up in the inner-city, so I wanted to be able to come back and interact with my community and to be a positive person for some of the youth,” Jones said during a recent afternoon patrol.  “I wanted to be somebody they could look up to and to do the job fairly and respectfully.”
Jones has done that and more since he and fellow patrol officer David Hutchinson began working as the department’s first members of the Northside Community Policing Team last fall. The team is responsible for patrolling a swath of North Minneapolis that runs roughly from Penn to Lyndale avenues and from Olson Memorial Highway to Dowling Avenue North.
While the officers respond to calls, ride on board buses and keep an eye on major boarding areas, one of their biggest areas of focus has been simply interacting with members of the community. Since the Northside Community Policing Team was formed, Jones and Hutchinson have spent time playing dominoes with kids at Juxtaposition, attending community meetings and getting to know business owners.
Hutchinson said the interactions have already started to change the perception of Transit Police.
“People used to think we just rode buses and checked tickets on the train,” the eight-year Transit Police officer said. “It was a surprise when we came into businesses, introduced ourselves and tried to gain a relationship with them.”
Among the business owners Jones and Hutchinson have come to know is Sam Tannos, who owns a convenience store at the corner of Penn and 26th avenues. Tannos has been at the location for six years and said having a strong police presence is critical to his business.
“We love their presence here,” Tannos said during a visit to the store. “It’s a very good idea to have them stop by and see what’s going on.”
Down the street, Dean Rose is also enthusiastic about having Transit Police become a fixture in the community.
Rose’s Broadway Liqour Store was destroyed by the 2011 tornado, forcing the store into a temporary space at the corner of Broadway and Penn avenues. A third-generation North Minneapolis business owner, Rose will break ground next year on a new mixed-use project across the street.
The plan is to incorporate a new station for the C Line Bus Rapid Transit project into the development, so Rose hopes Transit Police will continue working with him on security issues. Many people in the neighborhood use transit, Rose said, and it’s important for the businesses that will be in the building that people feel comfortable riding or standing at a bus stop.
“I think it’s important for the community to see there’s law enforcement out there,” he said. “Having these guys on the street in a visible fashion will really assist us in keeping the peace.”
Establishing such trusting relationships is the entire idea behind the beat policing model. Transit Police have established beats along the Central Corridor and in each downtowns for the same reason.
Jones said he hopes he and Hutchinson are doing now will lay a foundation for future collaboration between Metro Transit and Minneapolis police, business owners, transit customers, bus operators and others in North Minneapolis.
“The more you’re in the area, the more hopefully the community will be comfortable with those officers and coming forward to talk to them,” he said. “I really think we’re breaking ground with this new beat

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