The sound of dying neighborhoods

Unless something changes, 2013 in the Twin Cities may be the summer when people and politicians gave up and ceded their neighborhoods to the gangs.

Just last week, for example, a beating on the East Side of Saint Paul led its residents to beg for officials to do something — anything, really. Nobody seems to have an answer, however.

On Sunday morning, MPR’s Curtis Gilbert reported, a City Council candidate in Minneapolis was awakened by gunfire, saw an SUV drive away, and found shell casings in the street.

“And it’s even more disturbing when you go door-knocking and you hear stories like this about every other block,” Ian Alexander said.

But nothing should be more alarming than when people reach the breaking point, tired of putting up with what few of us would. Take Brigette Mengerson, for example. She’s a homeowner in north Minneapolis who has proudly called it home, an example of what neighborhoods need to flourish.

She was awakened this morning, too, by gunfire. She posted what should be a wake-up call on the North Vent Facebook page:

Tuesday, 1:47am… Semi automatic fire, about 7 shots. Third incident in a row, sounded like the alley of Penn and 34th. For some reason, these shots gave me a guttural response to cry as I laid very rigid in my back, speaking to 911. I couldn’t fall back asleep, I kept rearranging the furniture in my head, least likely place to take a bullet configuration. Then on to what room in the house would I feel safest putting in a nursery, and then more tears, no desire to bring a child into this home, this area.

I am so ******* disgusted by the very evident gang wars going on around here. Coincidence that 35th and Freemont got shot up and then in the middle of the night shots returned on this side of North? Daniel Field and I are a stone’s throw away from the school; is that what it will take to get some serious enforcement, kids getting shot walking home from school or run down by these jackasses speeding, weaving, riding out of windows, on top of the hoods of cars?

These aren’t just brainless thrill seekers; these are gang initiations, calling cards, territorial pissings. We are the only ones living in fear, the terrorist gang members have not seen any evidence that there will be consequences for their crimes. It just sickens me that this community pays for those crimes in both financial and personal loss, through plummeting house values, loss of possessions, and most valuable to me, loss of feeling safe. It’s the emotional terrorism that without effort, kept my spine bolted into my mattress last night, tears running down my face. To that, I say **** this place.

Even a neighborhood’s biggest supporters can reach the point where walking away and leaving it to die is an option.

  • Jack Boardman

    So far—we’ve been spared gang-activity in our neighborhood—so far.
    Has law-enforcement given up and left the gangs to sort out and
    divvy-up those neighborhoods?

  • JPRennquist

    I don’t deal with anything near the level of violence that is described here, but it is rough where I live. I like to be a neighborhood booster, too. And I have seen good neighbors come and go, sometimes based on violence. One of my favorite neighbors told me that he was calling it quits after a summer of lots of drunken/drug fueled brawls and noisiness. Yeah, sometimes just the noise will be the straw that breaks the camels back.

    Anyway, I do love where I live, and it seriously rankles me when people from outside of the area write off our neighborhood with labels. In my case we are raising kids where we live and the experience that they get is rich, due to the strength and beauty of diversity, the natural beauty of our neighborhood, proximity to the downtown area and more. However, I feel as though despite certain differences I can still relate to Brigette. I have had this experience, too, thinking maybe that I just need to throw in the towel and move out. I’m not sure that I could though, and I’m definitely not sure that I would want to even if I could, though.

  • Rose Pettit

    I sent this post to the mayor’s office. God save the northside….

    • Jaette

      Thanks Rose from a northsider

  • Dana Mahoney

    The worst part is feeling that NoMi has been written off by the rest of the city. After literally being forced to hit the deck last night after someone shot off an automatic weapon on my block, after making sure my kids were safe in an interior room, after calling 911, but giving up after being on hold for more than five minutes, it’s then, when I’m silently crying in the bathroom so my kids won’t see, that I feel completely alone and helpless. Maybe the terrorists have already won.

  • Stephen Jester

    That sound has fallen on deaf ears on this station, and the strib. This isn’t anything new, its just that now that a new crop of homeowners have moved in, and there’s way more people for the city to deny that there’s a problem. Been through 3 mayors now since I’ve bought my house and all 3 will deny that there’s a very serious crime problem. Its been blamed on slumlords, guns and poverty. It comes down to one issue. We have created an underclass in our society that doesn’t know how to behave in public, and anyone that questions how they act is either racist or classist. Well no more. People are finally see thru the bull and saying that I have rights too. Barb Johnson put those race baiters complaints to rest today on the opinion page. I’ve met bridgette, and she’s a genuine person. I feel her pain as I’ve hit the floor in my living room when the gunfire erupts. The real question is where do the mayoral candidates stand on this underclass issue. Its the people not the objects around them that are the cause of our terror.

    • Bob Collins

      Well said.

  • Renee S

    What an awful title and lead paragraph! Of course we don’t want to downplay violence that makes people feel helpless, or pretend that gangs don’t exist in this city. But I hope for less narrow perspectives from MPR on the biggest city in our state. This article makes both the entire East Side of St Paul and North Side of MInneapolis (almost a quarter of the geographic area of each city) seem utterly hopeless, when so many people are working to make progress and change perceptions. I expect this from cable news, but please, MPR, report the facts, not sensationalized statements about leaving huge swaths of our twin cities to DIE!

    • Bob Collins

      This isn’t a news story. This is a blog, where I’m paid to make observations. All across the country, sections of cities die because people reach a point where they think about abandoning it. I’m sorry that sounds harsh, but that’s how it happens. There’s nothing sensational about it. Nothing at all.

      • Chris

        This is a similar conversation going on all over…Detroit, Chicago… does a video where they drive through the West Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, which is one of the most crime-ridden in Chicago. They show how its decayed over the years and is mostly abandoned houses or vacant lots. Its lost about 2/3 of its population since 1960 and basically ask if that neighborhood can be saved or, in order to save it, you just start over. North Mpls is nowhere near this, but it is a valid perspective or observation.

    • CH42578

      I live on the East Side of St. Paul. For anyone thinking of moving here, don’t!

  • MrE85

    This story got some more supporting evidence — if any was needed –from the North side of Mpls last night. WTH, people?

  • davehoug

    What improves a town more, shiny stadium used 10 times a year or feeling safe in your own home?? Do you pay taxes to make the rich richer or to be able to raise children? SHAME on those who took away the law requiring a referendum vote on the stadium.

    • Hugh Shakeshaft

      Thanks Dayton. Whatever his flaws, at least Pawlenty had the practicality to not put the stadium on the backs of the working class. Which party is looking out for the working class?

      • Bob Collins

        Pawlenty stadium for the Twins created a sales tax increase. I think that’s pretty much on the working class and they have no choice whether to pay — unlike smokers and gamblers.

        • Hugh Shakeshaft

          I agree, but 80 games is a little more justified than 8. Regardless I don’t think taxpayers should be on the hook for either. It’s a symptom of our national sports infatuation.

  • Huh?

    I know it’s a blog, and apparently that should give the author some kind of pass on doing “real journalism,” but I’m not sure one can follow the author from a single data point (one person’s frustrations) to the neighborhood dying. Is it just dying now? I ask because I’ve seen articles like this one for as long as I’ve lived here (over a decade now). When did it make the transition from “crappy” to “dying?” When did knee-jerk reactionism migrate from Facebook to NPR?

  • Bob Collins

    Just a housekeeping note for people visiting for the first time. We don’t do comments that don’t include a real name and a real email address. Sorry. If you’ve posted a comment and it’s no longer here, that’s why.