If You See Something, Report It! (Here’s why….)

There is information on the Public Safety Task Force page of the DMNA website about how to report crime incidents and neighborhood safety issues to city officials, through various means. (As noted there, 911 should be called for situations that require an immediate response from police, fire, or EMS personnel.) The question addressed here is why to report issues, particularly through 311, and how reporting benefits our neighborhood.

Most of us are motivated to call 311 because we want something done about the incidents or conditions we are seeing.  As we know, however, getting something done is in short supply these days, because of the multiple challenges facing our city.  So the “Why report?” question really becomes “Why bother to report?” if it doesn’t lead to prompt remedial action.

We know from neighborhood discussions that there are reasons besides lack of response why people do not report: that what we are seeing is suspicious, but may not actually be a crime; that it might be a crime, but only a minor one;  that somebody else has probably already reported it; that what we seeing is just a reflection of the hard times that exist now; that the City will find and address property damage or graffiti or illegal encampments on its own.

So why should we bother?  The answer is that, apart from requesting remedial action, reporting to 311 creates an official record of problem situations in our neighborhood.  Over the years, the DMNA has held conversations with numerous officials about neighborhood issues—scooters on sidewalks, property conditions that violate city ordinances, illegal behaviors in our parks, and so on—and every one of these officials has emphasized the critical importance of creating an official record. Council Members, agency directors, and MPD pay greater attention to issues and have more leverage in addressing them when there is a clear record of public complaints.  Allocations of agency resources, at whatever level available, are directly influenced by citizen reports.  For these reasons, the preferred method of 311 reporting is often by email, with a copy of the report sent to Council Members Fletcher or Goodman.

For neighborhood reporting to be effective as an official record, it’s not enough for one person to report an incident or problem situation.  City response is more likely when patterns and levels of public safety issues have been established.  Consequently, anyone who observes a public safety threat should report it.  The more reports filed, the more attention the situation will receive.  When there are recurrent problems, like parties and open drug use at Gold Medal Park or drag racing on neighborhood streets, they should be reported as regularly as they occur.  Our reporting of safety issues, through 311, 911, and other means, is a collective message to city officials that these conditions are unacceptable in our neighborhood.  In this way, our reporting is also part of our neighborhood’s participation in the debate over what kind of public safety system we want Minneapolis to establish.