Downtown foot patrols step up as Safe Zone project continues - FOX 10 News |

Downtown foot patrols step up as Safe Zone project continues

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Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, but it's also the kick-off for increased patrols in downtown as Hennepin County's Safe Zone project continues.

Deputies believe that getting just one bad apple off the street helps others enjoy their experience downtown even more.

On a rainy Memorial Day, Hennepin County Deputies Joe Steffens and Jeff Marshall started off their third summer of foot-patrols. The partners keep an eye out for anything suspicious because they know some people come downtown specifically to prey on strangers.

The two took to the streets in 2005 as part of the effort to make the downtown area safer, and they say most of the crimes they see are nuisances, petty misdemeanors that annoy the public.

The deputies explained that they typically see more incidents in the beginning of the year, but being on foot makes them more approachable and able to respond quickly.

"As the summer goes on, those crimes lessen because they know we are here," Steffens said.

So far, Marshall says they've already gotten a warm reception from people visiting downtown.

"Just speaking to people on the street, they come up and thank us for being here and they tell us they feel safe knowing we are around," he said.

The new season of Safe Zone is starting up just a week after Minneapolis police announced they would be increasing foot and bike patrols on the city's north side in an attempt to deter crime in the area.

"Business can be tough," admitted Darryl Weivoda, owner of the North End Hardware Store. "People perceive the north side as being not a safe place, then they are going to go someplace where they think they can be safe."

Weivoda has seen the effects of crime in the area first-hand. A few years ago, a DHL driver walked into his store after being shot in his truck while out on delivery.

"I'm looking forward to the program to see if we can have more presence and have the people that should feel uncomfortable feel uncomfortable," he said.

That's exactly what Steffens and Marshall hope too as they continue to try to stop crime before it starts.

"I feel like we're making a difference," Steffens said.

Last year, Hennepin County deputies spent more than 6,600 hours walking the streets of downtown. In that time, they made 227 arrests and approached more than 26,000 people -- but it wasn't just over perceived problems. They also give directions and information to people as needed as they continue to work to foster a better relationship with the community.

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