As a surge in violent crime engulfs many cities in the US in the midst of the chaos wrought by widespread protests and the pandemic, embattled Minneapolis police have advised residents on survival skills in areas where social order has broken down, offering such tips as “be prepared to give up your cell phone and purse/wallet” to robbers and “do not walk alone.”
As the city sinks further into decay and chaos, authorities and community leaders remain at a loss as to how to stabilize the situation.
“Do not argue or fight with the criminal,” police said in a July 28 letter to Third Precinct residents. “Do what they say. Your safety is most important.”
Carjackings and other robberies have skyrocketed in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. Police said there were 20 carjackings and 100 other robberies reported in July in the Third Precinct alone. “Some victims have been maced, dragged, assaulted and some threatened with a gun,” police said in the warning to locals.
The Third Precinct, southeast of downtown, was one of the areas most affected by the protests-turned-riots that broke out following the May 25 killing of George Floyd while being detained by Minneapolis police. Ensuing demonstrations and riots in the adjoining cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul marked one of the most destructive periods of civil unrest in US history. Police were forced to abandon their Third Precinct headquarters for their own safety on May 28 as rioters pulled down a fence and set the building on fire.
The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously in June to replace the city’s police department with a “department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
However, it will be some time before the new strategy can be put into practice, and it remains to be seen if it will be effective or not. The plan will need approval from voters in November, meaning it will primarily affect police resources after 2020, but the city last month took $1.1 million out of this year’s police budget to fund a Health Department program in which staff are sent out to ‘mediate’ disputes.
In the interim period, urgent measures are needed to restore order before the situation spirals completely out of control. Some Minneapolis residents are already adjusting to deteriorating public safety by setting up armed patrols in their neighbourhoods.
Minneapolis police are operating under a court order that bans such tactics as choke holds and requires that any use of rubber bullets or other crowd-control measures be approved by the police chief. More than 150 officers have filed disability claims for post-traumatic stress disorder and other injuries suffered during the protests.
In Seattle, where officers were banned altogether from using crowd-control weapons, Police Chief Carmen Best warned business owners last month that her department would have “no ability to safely intercede to preserve property in the midst of a large, violent crowd.”
Seattle City Council members introduced a resolution Friday to create a new community safety department that would replace much of the police force.
Police also have been restrained by city leaders in Portland, which had 15 reported homicides in July, the highest monthly total in more than three decades. There were 63 shootings reported through the first 29 days of July, police data showed, up from 28 in all of July 2019. LINK
The difficult times in the US are set to continue as polarization and social breakdown show no sign of abating throughout the country. In the meantime, the Trump administration continues to distract attention from the deteriorating political, economic and social situation in the US and to chase political points by demonizing China, this time claiming that Chinese social media applications – and specifically the video sharing platform TikTok – constitute a national security threat. LINK
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