Monday, July 03, 2006

Police-run lemonade tent boosts officers' visibility in troubled neighborhoods

Creative Community Oriented Policing -- Eric

Corner stand cools off crime
Police-run lemonade tent boosts officers' visibility in troubled neighborhoods.

St. Paul, MN Pioneer Press

In a city beleaguered by a wave of murders, Minneapolis police believe they've hit on a new crime-fighting tool: lemonade.

After a test-run in North Minneapolis last week, police officers today will set up a lemonade stand at the intersection of 22nd Avenue North and Sixth Street North. The area has been battered by crime this year, particularly violent crime.

"We're putting the lemonade stand right in the middle of these high-crime neighborhoods," said Mark Klukow, a street officer and 11-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department and the one who came up with the idea.

Of the 30 slayings reported in Minneapolis this year, 16 have been in the 4th Precinct, the area of North Minneapolis that includes the intersection.

In their test of the concept at the intersection last Friday, Klukow and other officers attracted nearly 400 youth and drained 25 gallons of lemonade.

But they also reduced the crime, Klukow said.

"Putting the cops in these high-risk neighborhoods literally shuts down crime," he said. "We were in sight — literally in sight — of three dope houses. They were perturbed that we were there. Their clients moved. On a Friday, I would guess they (dealers) would dump half of their marijuana that they dump in a given week, because it's payday for a lot of people, and they want to have some for the weekend."

The lemonade stand is a 10-foot-by-10-foot tent, staffed by two to five armed, uniformed officers. The police close off half a street and set up a basketball hoop. The lemonade is free.

After today, the lemonade stand will be in a different neighborhood from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each Friday.

Klukow said the main goals of the lemonade stand are to increase police visibility in the neighborhood, make a positive impression on kids ages 11 to 17 and listen to the residents' concerns.

Thursday evening, kids passed a football or rode bikes through the intersection, while adults stood nearby. Resident Cary Howell said she believed the lemonade stand is a great idea for the police.

"I liked the increased visibility," she said. "We need all the help we can get in North Minneapolis. And it helps the kids see the cops as human, as something other than what their parents tell them."

Sondra Hollinger Samuels, president of the Peace Foundation, a group trying to find solutions to the crime and the neighborhood's other issues, said the lemonade stand was an important step in improving police-community relations.

"Trust isn't given; it's earned. Setting up camp on a street that's needed police officers is a way to earn trust," she said. "We need that to effectively take back our community."

Hollinger Samuels is hopeful the initiative will help.

"Any attempt by police officers to … reach out to the community is way more than welcome, is way overdue, and as a community, we're so appreciative," she said. "At the end of the day, this is about healing relationships."

The stand isn't the only effort to tackle crime in North Minneapolis. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis police officials will announce today a new agreement with the State Patrol to boost police presence in the Minneapolis neighborhood.

David Hanners can be reached at or 651-228-5551.

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