Minneapolis Police Service When the 3rd Precinct Was Still Standing

I’d forgotten about this encounter with the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct from early May of 2020 but stumbled across it in some old pictures today.

I was leaving the Dollar Tree near Hiawatha and Lake on May 5th, 2020 when I heard a car alarm blaring. Nothing that out of the ordinary so far, but what was a bit different was that a guy was reaching into a car parked next to Cub Foods through the passenger window and rifling through the glove compartment of the car with the alarm blaring.

There happened to be a Cub employee out on her smoke break a few yards away from where this was happening. She asked him is it was his car and he said yes. But, he also decided to leave that car and start crossing the large parking lot to the west.

I asked the smoker if she had called 911 and she had. She said that she needed to get back to work so I said that I’d keep an eye on the guy and for the cops that should be arriving soon. There is a direct line of sight to the 3rd Precinct a block to the South from this point.

I watched the car thief walk west to just North of what’s now a Planet Fitness, and what did he do? He started breaking into another vehicle. I snapped a pic of that situation then called 911 to give them an update on where the car thief was.

I mentioned to the 911 dispatcher that I was currently watching the thief attempt to break into another car.

At some point, the thief noticed me and decided to act like this was all totally normal behavior and slowly meandered South past the stretch of businesses and Target down to Lake Street. While he was walking that way, a squad quietly idled up so I flagged it down and asked if he was here for the 911 call about the car break-ins. He was. So I told him that the thief was around 100 yards South of us by Lake. The cop then asked where the car was that the thief had been breaking into, so I pointed to the two vehicles. The cop then chose to . . . go to one of those vehicles rather than to the thief.

I decided to keep an eye on the thief, so I went down to Lake. The thief was sitting on the steps of what was then an Arby’s (it was burned down later that month during the riot following a murder by a member of the MPD’s 3rd Precinct). Yes, he was sitting right next door to the MPS 3rd Precinct’s parking lot.

After sitting there for around 5-10 minutes, I called 911 to give them an update on where the thief was. I mentioned to them that I had talked to a cop, and that the cop did nothing. They said that they’d look into it.

Another 10-15 minutes passed and the guy remained there but a cop never came out of the precinct to address this.

On the plus side, I’m thankful that my 911 call didn’t lead to Derek Chauvin responding to the call while training some junior officers on how the way things are done in the MPD.

On the downside, this was a lay-up. A crime was in progress within sight of their own precinct and they couldn’t be bothered to even talk to the person who was breaking into multiple vehicles.

Does it take a squad car, a gun, and a badge to handle 911 calls this poorly? I don’t think so. Surely, there are cheaper ways to do things this incompetently.

A Few Inflammatory Statements

1. Not everyone graduated at the top of their class.

2. Nearly every industry has some excellent people, a ton of average people, some incompetent people, and some criminals.

3. If there is significant money or power to be gained, the extreme cases for #2 become greater.

If you took extreme offense at any of the above statements, you just may be a spokesperson for a police department that’s been in the news for the wrong reasons in 2014.

HR or Criminal Issue? Moving Abusive Priests Between Parishes

With so many clergy abuse scandals in the news these days, finding new ways to cover the stories may become challenging. Here’s one angle that might help.

While the St Paul Archdiocese has been busy denying covering for abusive priests within their ranks, the Duluth Diocese has gotten around to admitting that a priest within their ranks, Rev. Cornelius Kelleher, sexually abused a female minor in Chisholm between 1975 – 1986.

The article mentions that he served the following parishes before retiring:

St. James, Duluth, MN
St. Joseph, Crosby, MN
Holy Family, Eveleth, MN
St. Mary, Cook, MN
St. Bridget, Greaney, MN
St. Benedict, Duluth, MN
St. Joseph, Gnesen, MN
St. Joseph, Lakewood, MN
St. Joseph, Chisholm, MN
St. Andrew, Brainerd, MN
St. Patrick, Hinckley, MN
St. Joseph, Beroun, MN

It doesn’t mention those are in chronological order. But, it seem clear that this priest was moved around a significant number of times over vast distances during his career. I mapped the locations to get a better feel for this:

Parishes Rev. Cornelius Kelleher Served

Visualizations like this, together with timelines of which parishes the abusive priest served, where he was before, and where he went next, might help illustrate how abusive priests were reassigned rather than charged with crimes. The Duluth News Tribune report mentions that Kelleher worked in Hinkley and Beroun in 2000. But, it’s not clear from the report if Kelleher was reassigned 120 miles to the south after his time abusing a female minor in Chisholm, or if he had other stops along the way.

It would also be interesting if a reporter was able to get their hands on the employment history of an entire archdiocese over a generation, then screen for the most moved priests. For example, were there priests that started out in large parishes who ended up being bounced around through small towns? Why did that happen? Perhaps you’d stumble across some “fixer” priests who’s job it is to clean up after priest scandals? If so, you could look up who they followed and start asking questions.

I think the data would reveal in even greater detail that there are systemic problems with how abusive priests are dealt with by church leaders. When the #2 guy at the St Paul archdiocese abruptly retires, you know things are a mess. But, we don’t truly understand the scope of the coverups at this point.

MinnPost’s New Minneapolis Crime Map

MinnPost has an excellent new interactive crime map on their site that presents city crime data by crime category and neighborhood. Very cool stuff.

One thing that stands out to me is the difference between the “all crimes” map and the visualizations of different crime categories. Here’s the all crimes version:

Minneapolis Crimes - All Crimes

And here’s that map filtered for just Aggravated Assaults:

Minneapolis Crimes - Aggravated Assault

One reason for the difference is the high quantity of reported shoplifting cases at Target stores. At the time I wrote that, a commenter mentioned that it may not be that Target’s better at catching shoplifters, but that they’re more likely to prosecute every shoplifting incident, which creates a burden for our police and courts, while also creating criminal records for people who are already having a hard time. That makes some sense. It’s not like Target security could tell a shoplifter “we never forget a face, so the next time you come in here, one of our interchangeable Targetrons will notice”. They’re also high-volume stores with some of the most sophisticated security systems available, so their catch-rate is likely higher than stores that aren’t staffed with casino-style cameras.

As I toggled through the various crime categories on the maps, I thought about which category of crime may tell the most about the challenges a neighborhood faces. Larceny doesn’t seem to be it, since one could live right next to a Target store (high larceny rates) without feeling any impacts of the higher than average larceny rates. Homicide seems too rare to rely on for trends. Aggravated assault, to me, seems like a decent fit for judging neighborhood safety. Areas where people are getting in fights, dealing with domestic abuse and child abuse seem less safe to me.

Looking at the aggravated assault map, there were no reported aggravated assaults from Lake of the Isles leading south through the chain of lakes, then east along the Minnehaha Creek, along Nokomis & Hiawatha, and all the way to the falls. And northern Northeast Minneapolis is its usual quiet self. Downtown ranks high but that’s likely skewed by the warehouse district. Morris Park, down in the SE corner of the city, ranks high due to the action on Bossen Terrace and Sander Dr (concentrated public housing, I believe).

What do you think? Is aggravated assault a decent indicator of neighborhood safety?

An Example of Minneapolis 311 Dropping the Ball

I received an alert from Minneapolis 311 today about a graffiti report I sent in yesterday. Good news. The report had already been closed. 24 turnaround. Very cool:

Closed Graffiti Report

But, when I looked closer, I saw this:

Closed 311 report due to Duplicates

Hmm, it was closed because it was a duplicate. It turns out that someone had already reported that tag. So, I took a look to see if I could figure out who reported it. You’d think that this would be easy because 311 provides a case number, but that case number doesn’t actually work on the public facing website. It appears to be for an internal tracking system, so it a worthless piece of information for me.

Still, I did manage to track down the previous report. It turns out that I was the person who previously reported those tags:

Initial Railroad Tag Report

That report shows that I initially reported this tag on June 12th. So, I suppose it makes sense that they’d mark the report I filed three weeks later about the same tags as a dupe. But, then I noticed this:

Closed Graffiti Case

It turns out that the graffiti report I sent in on June 12th was closed on June 20th and marked as resolved. But, based on the report I made on July 2nd, either taggers made identical tags to those signs between June 20th and July 2nd, or Minneapolis 311 marked a case as resolved that clearly was not.

Does anyone have any insight into how this happens at 311?

Spiros Zorbalas: Fixing Online Reputation Over Cockroach Infestation

The Slumlord of South Minneapolis, Spiros Zorbalas, has been in the news again. This time for a good reason. He is now officially out of the slumlording business in the city after selling his portfolio of poorly maintained properties to Steve Frenz.

While showing little respect for his tenants, Zorbalas did appear to care about his own reputation. I based this on the reputation management work that’s been done to try to improve the search results for his name. Here’s a look at what I’m seeing for Spiros Zorbalas on Google today:

Spiros Zorbalas on Google

The recent news is dominating the results. I think it’s safe to assume that Zorbalas would prefer not to see seven of the current top-10 results on the first page for his name ranking that high. It looks like he hired a reputation management firm to help him knock down the unflattering but accurate reporting about his destructive behavior in Minneapolis. For example, here’s a domain set up with a Zorbalas bio and links to more favorable mentions of Zorbalas on the web:


Both at spiroszorbalas.com and spiroszorbalas.net:

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 9.40.56 AM

And here’s a Tumblr account optimized for Spiros Zorbalas’ name with links to non-slumlord associated pages on the web:

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 9.41.09 AM

Twitter accounts tend to rank high, which would explain why this was set up:

Spiros Zorbalas on Twitter

And a Posterous account:

Screen Shot 2013-01-24 at 9.41.33 AM

And a VisualCV account that links to his Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn:

Spiros Zorbalas on VisualCV

Setting up accounts on each of those sites is not a bad thing to do. Doing so just to lock down your preferred username is reason enough. But, if you’re doing so to improve your online reputation it certainly wouldn’t hurt to avoid having a bad offline reputation. It took around years of slumlording in South Minneapolis from Naples, FL before CityPages wrote about Zorbalas’ behavior in 2008:

Since arriving on the local real estate scene in the late 1990s, Zorbalas has been sued more than 200 times, primarily by tenants demanding repairs or former tenants seeking the return of their security deposits. Zorbalas has also had one rental license revoked for ignoring drug dealing, and been forced to pay $13,000 to a carpet-cleaning company for a year’s worth of unpaid services and another $15,000 when a mother holding her infant son slipped and fell on a loose plastic runner in one of his stairwells.

This makes me wonder how much of a catalyst the local press played in Zorbalas’ decision to sell off the Minneapolis branch of his slumlording empire. Perhaps the ongoing fines from the city and lawsuits from poor tenants were an acceptable cost of doing business as long as his behavior wasn’t known to people Googling his name?

By the way, if you happen to be dealing with a Spiros Zorbalas style slumlord, or know someone who is, give the folks at HomeLine a call. They offer a wide variety of services that can help you live in peace.

Police Effectively Using Technology to Fight Prostitution

I’ve written before about how ridiculous it is for politicians to think shutting down a website will impact prostitution. We’ve seen this happen with Craigslist’s erotic services postings, and pressure has ramped up to shut down Backpage after BP became the next big player in erotic classifieds once the government eliminated their closest competitor.

I’ve mentioned before that law enforcement would be better off using the existing online platforms to police their local adult services industry rather than pretend that shutting down a website will make it go away. As I see it, the web provides less anonymity than, say, street walking where people meet anonymously with no electronic records. For two people connect through a website, email or phone needs to be used (unless the prostitute puts their physical address in the ad, which doesn’t appear to happen since they likely prefer to screen their customers).

Which brings us to Roseville, Minnesota. It turns out that Roseville’s cops figured out how to use Backpage to find escorts operating in the city and solved their escort problem. How did they do it? They searched for “Roseville” on Backpage and set up appointments with local advertisers then stopped by for a visit to the local motels they were using to run their businesses. They also cracked down on customers visiting the escorts.

Think about this: While sitting behind desks, police officers were able to determine where escorts were working in their city. Roseville cops focused on the problem and used the same technology used by the escorts to solve it.

Perhaps politicians can learn something from this?

Vikings Extend Lead in Most Arrested Players Competition

Back in October 2011, the Vikings pulled into first place among NFL teams for player arrests. Previous to that, they were tied for first place with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Apparently, Vikings cornerback Benny Sapp wasn’t satisfied with the Vikings’ one-arrest lead, so he helped extend the lead by getting arrested on December 30th:

NFL Player Arrest By Team Thru 2011

That also increases the annual arrest rate under Minnesota’s favorite corporate welfare queen, Zygi Wilf, to an astonishing 3.49 player arrests per year since purchasing the NFL franchise from Red McCombs in the spring of 2005:

Annualized Player Arrests by Owner: Red McCombs vs. Zygi Wilf

After finishing the year with a 3-13 record, Vikings players will have plenty of free time to spend extending the team’s arrest record even further.

Lacking Control Groups Beat Down Troubled Minneapolis Neighborhoods

The Minneapolis Police Department’s Shots Fired map do a good job showing where shots are fired showing were shots spotter microphones are installed.

Shots Fired

The StarTribune misinterpreted this data like this:

It’s a valuable public service to put out this public information, but the sheer number of red circles is a sad commentary on the dangerous state of some Minneapolis neighborhoods.

There are no shot spotter microphones in my neighborhood. Does that mean that there were no shots fired or that there were no shots recorded? It’s hard to say without consistent collection of data across the city.

My issue here is that, yes, there are neighborhoods that have problems with gun violence. But, if you only look for problems in certain neighborhoods, you’re going to create the illusion that those neighborhoods are in worse relative to other neighborhoods than they really are.

That said, the blue stars where someone actually got shot are probably a more accurate reflection of where gun violence is a problem. While shots aren’t recorded consistently, the meeting of a bullet with a body tends to get logged regardless of neighborhood.

Is Everything Justifiable for Vikings Fans?

The popular Vikings blog, Daily Norseman, linked up my post yesterday about the Vikings becoming the most-arrested team in the NFL. Reading through the comments over there, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that Vikings fans can justify just about anything on behalf of their team.

We already know Vikings fans support using sales taxes to redistribute a penny from a poor immigrant child buying his first candybar to a New Jersey businessman’s dream of building a 21,000 car parking lot in Arden Hills (along with a football stadium).

And now we see that criminal behavior is tolerated, as long as the player is good enough:

I think the problem lies in our draft process….
We often roll the dice on questionable characters (too many to list) and also with free agents, to a lesser extent. We should place a higher value on personal conduct and character than we have been. I think that will help a lot. That said, I think we need to hang on to Cook as our best young corner.

by bender26 on Oct 22, 2011 6:07 PM CDT

We also learn that the Vikings arrests aren’t their fault. It’s society’s fault, the crimes aren’t all that severe, and the numbers are deceiving because Vikings players have managed to get arrested in groups:

First off…
It should be noted that the relatively low crime rate in minnesota compares to other regions means that anyone committing a crime isnis much more likely to be caught than in areas of high crime.

Second, compare the severity of the arrests for Vikings players against the severity of crimes committed by other teams.

Third, remember that the love boat incident involved multiple players and skewed the numbers further.

The numbers are decieving.

by Bjorno on Oct 22, 2011 8:55 PM CDT

I guess a case could be made that Chris Cook only got arrested for felony domestic assault/strangulation and fifth-degree domestic assault because concerned neighbors called the cops at 1:42 am. Darn nosey Minnesota neighbors, and Eden Prairie cops who have nothing better to do than follow up on calls from concerned citizens.

Having multiple Vikings players arrested all at once doesn’t skew the numbers, but it helps explain how they manage to underachieve by so much. That said, look on the bright side: team unity!