Greenfield residents air concerns over police coverage

The public comment component of the bimonthly Greenfield meeting was a great amenity to residents and business owners alike Aug. 15. In response to a recent special workshop where council reviewed Greenfield’s contract with Hennepin County Sheriff, the council spent the first 20 minutes of their Aug. 15 regular meeting hearing concerns.

Mayor Brad Johnson seemed aware that public commenters would focus on police coverage. He prefaced public comment with a few words, stating city staff had received calls from business owners worried that the city was planning to drastically cut hours of daily police coverage.

“I don’t know where that information has originated from, but unless I slept through a council meeting I know that’s never occurred here with this council,” said Johnson. “We’ve had the same contract for roughly ten years, we’ve not discussed cutting it, so I just want to let the public know that that’s not been part of our discussion and that information is false.”

Speakers’ comments varied from asking questions about the state of policing in Greenfield to pointing out areas to improve. One speaker opened his wallet, waving bills at the council as he encouraged them to prioritize safety over budget.

Policing has been a theme at the forefront of many recent Greenfield meetings. A special council workshop was called by Councilor Tom Cook to hear “what exactly is going on in Greenfield from a department standpoint” including new activities or aspects the city should be aware of.

At the workshop, Hennepin County Sheriff Department representative Jeff Storms offered a few fast facts to council:

  • Policing in Greenfield is more reactive versus proactive, largely responding to calls in the area as needed instead of patrolling hot spots.
  • The amount of calls to service had dropped off since 2012, with no particular days called in more often.
  • The common on-duty response time is a little over seven minutes, while less-severe calls have about 13.
  • Corcoran and Medina police only responds to severe, life-threatening calls in Greenfield.
  • Greenfield contracts Hennepin County Sheriff for three hours a day, but in reality two daytime and two evening are often scheduled.
  • A squad car always hangs near the western metro for Greenfield, north of I-394 and west of 169. If Greenfield did not contract with Hennepin County Sheriff, Storms said that car would be “farther north towards the cities.”
  • During coverage hours, there is a squad car within a five to six city range. In the off hours they will usually be within a ten- to 15-minute range.

The council did not mention any interest in reducing coverage hours. Rather, Storms recommended increasing coverage if the council felt that they needed additional proactive policing.

‘HAVE WE GROWN?’

The public, however remained concerned a week later at the Aug. 15 regular meeting.

Mark Kraft, owner of Molly’s Wine & Spirits in Greenfield asked how coverage was split in the event of investigations, and whether the city had began to outgrow its longstanding 3-hour a day coverage.

Heidi Erickson, owner of Too Good 2B Threw, a local thrift and consignment shop, told council that she was not comfortable with the short coverage and had contacted local businesses, asking them to speak at the meeting.

“I asked are they aware we have three hours a day, technically, of police protection? No one was aware of that, and most of them were quite upset about the issue,” said Erickson.

Erickson also told council that she felt business owners weren’t being included in the policing conversation. “If we want a thriving business community we need to have the feeling that business owners are being protected,” she said.

While Greenfield has not technically seen an overall growth in crime, the summer months experienced a hike in juvenile issues. July in particular stood out with fireworks complaints, and youth trespessing on property with motorcycles and ATVs.

Storm said at the special workshop that these situations are usually addressed with an officer responding to speak with the youth and/or parent.

Councilors attributed many problems to specific families with what Councilor Erickson called an “illustrative history of children who have strayed from the path.” Erickson continued that nuisance calls could escalate if not responded to, because citizens may try to address the issue themselves.

At the special workshop, Hennepin County representative Storms said the department had experience with hiking up hours over certain times of the year, and Mayor Johnson said it may be worth revisiting in the spring of next year.

At the regular Aug. 15 meeting, resident Joe Lepore asked if the council would include an increase in police coverage in their upcoming budget considerations. Mayor Brad Johnson said he was interested in scheduling a public forum with mailed notice to residents and businesses, but Lepore wasn’t sure that could be pulled off early enough to include it in next year’s budget.

Public comments are limited to three minutes and do not necessitate immediate discussion and action by council. If a public forum is scheduled, residents will be notified via postal mail and in the legal section of this paper.