Police frequently called to troubled neighborhood

Intersection known for drug dealing, gunshots

Minneapolis Star Tribune

More than once a day in the past year, police have been called to Knox and 26th avenues, a north Minneapolis crossroad for drug dealing, gunshots, fights and robberies.

Those doses of criminal activity take place on a corner next to a public garden of sunflowers and black-eyed susans, a slice of tranquility planted by police and neighborhood children that separates the intersection from a house where police conducted a high-risk drug raid Thursday.

The 11⁄2-story; stucco home of Shirley Powell sits in the middle of a six-block stretch of 26th Avenue where police have recorded 605 calls since Aug. 1, 2001. The incidents included 13 reports from or involving the Powell home about narcotics, a shooting and other complaints, as well as another high-risk warrant.


On Friday, residents went about their business walking their dogs, running errands, going to the store. They paused to talk about the crime that has plagued their neighborhood for years, but they also said they wanted to make clear that not everything is bad about their economically and racially mixed neighborhood.

Many said they were aware that drug dealing took place regularly along 26th Avenue. But they also said that most neighbors know each other, look out for one another and are proud of the area. Neighborhood residents have formed watch groups to try to get rid of the drug dealers and criminals.

Powell and three others at her home were arrested during the Thursday night drug raid. Powell was charged Friday with child endangerment. The others were arrested on suspicion of weapons and drug violations and obstructing legal process.

Fourteen other people at the Powell home, most of them juveniles, were not arrested. Among them was Toney Powell, 33, a cousin of the injured boy, who accused the police Friday of misconduct in the shooting.

Clark McPhail, a professor of sociology at the University of Illinois and author of "The Myth of the Madding Crowd," said incidents like the one that happened Thursday follow a pattern: They happen in high-density neighborhoods with lots of crime near a busy street.

The participants are not usually normal law-abiding citizens whipped into a frenzy, as often portrayed, but disenfranchised or even criminal elements.

"They've had contacts with police in which they think they've been abused or disrespected," McPhail said. "And this is yet another incident that exacerbates those experiences. Tempers can flare quickly on both sides of the barricades."

McPhail said that if police don't respond forcefully to crime in a neighborhood, they are seen as uncaring. If they respond forcefully and make a mistake, they're seen as abusive.

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