Was Lowry Bridge a Span to Crime?

Mike Kaszuba, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mar. 29

As the 100-year-old Lowry Avenue Bridge reopens Wednesday to traffic traveling between north Minneapolis and Northeast, people are wondering if the year-long closure also inadvertently reduced criminal activity in the northeast neighborhoods nearest the bridge.

Between May, shortly after the bridge closed for repairs, and December, the Marshall Terrace neighborhood reported a 41 percent drop in major crime compared with the same period in 2003, including fewer auto thefts, half the larcenies and a slight drop in aggravated assaults. During the same period, serious crime also fell 5.5 percent in Bottineau, the other northeast Minneapolis neighborhood closest to the bridge.

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While Northeast has enjoyed a resurgence as an old ethnic enclave that is attracting more artists and chic restaurants, north Minneapolis remains poorer and with a much higher percentage of minority residents. The North Side is bracing for a beefed-up police presence next month that will include officers on horses and bicycles.

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“Since it’s been closed, for us, we really don’t have too much of a shoplifting problem,” said Bob Marget, whose liquor store sits at the foot of the bridge in Northeast. While Marget said shoplifting has not been a large problem at the store, which his family has owned for 59 years, he said both shoplifting and the number of customers trying to pass suspicious checks have declined.

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But some northeast Minneapolis residents are cautious about rushing to conclusions. “Simply because crime is down, you can’t say it’s because the Lowry Avenue Bridge is closed,” said Fran Guminga, who lives five blocks from the bridge and is a four-decade resident of Northeast. “I think there’s implications for some racial attitudes there that we have to be careful about.”

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Taylor Shaver, general manager of the Sample Room, a 3-year-old Northeast restaurant near the bridge, said it may be difficult to say for sure what part the bridge plays in crime. “I don’t now if the mystery will ever be revealed,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see this particular summer” Shaver said, calling the reopened bridge “an open corridor to a whole different world.

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