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Social Services Hub Would Have Negligible Impact on Hopkins Police

Small call loads at the main social services center in downtown Minneapolis suggest Hopkins wouldn’t see a jump in calls if a center came here.

A proposed social services hub in downtown Hopkins would not stretch local police, based on call loads for the much larger center in downtown Minneapolis.

Extra work for Hopkins police was among the worries City Council members had when Hennepin County first suggested expanding its offices in the Wells Fargo building.

Yet Minneapolis Police Department records show that Century Plaza, the county’s main social services center, had just 23 calls for service between Sept. 1, 2011, and Sept. 10, 2012. Several of those reports—including medical calls and welfare checks— did not involve criminal activity.

“It’s a pretty small number, and we’re talking about a building that has 1,200 visits per day or more,” said Rex Holzemer, an area director for the Human Services and Public Health Department.

The proposed Hopkins hub is expected to serve 170 people to 175 people per day—an increase of 70-75 people over the 100 or so already using the existing offices daily. 

“I don’t see any major problems,” said Police Sgt. Michael Glassberg. “If you base it off Minneapolis, there may be calls but it will not be insurmountable.”

Councilwoman Molly Cummings—who had a business located in Century Plaza several years ago and frequently saw issues that kept officers busy—said the low numbers surprised her but acknowledged that they suggest there wouldn’t be a big issue for Hopkins police.

“That does not jive with the experience I had working there, but I have not had a business in there for 17 years,” she said. “That does not seem excessive for the number of visitors they have.”

The numbers may be below Cummings’ expectations because of processes the county has since implemented that tamp down tensions. Electronic queuing systems ensure customers are served in the order they arrive and allow them to step out for a bite to eat if the wait’s going to be long, Holzemer said. There are also areas for kids’ activities and space in the lobby for people to settle in and wait.

The social services buildings have more traditional security elements, as well. Security cameras continuously watch the facilities. Security staff aren’t police officers, but they are trained beyond the typical security guard and visible so customers know they’re there.

“These are pretty experienced security staff, and they’ve got a fair amount of ability and capacity to deal with a pretty wide range of incidents,” Holzemer said.

Meanwhile, any impact social services visitors do have is likely already being felt because the whole goal of the social services hub is to bring services to the communities where people live. These aren’t even necessarily welfare recipients. Health inspectors in the building, for example, serve business owners.

Low call numbers don’t alleviate all the City Council’s worries about the social services hub, though. Perhaps even more importantly, it doesn’t fit the city’s image for the downtown. Planners have been putting the pieces together to transform Hopkins into a regional destination that, with the help of the light rail, will attract people to the community.

Mayor Gene Maxwell said he liked the security provisions he saw at the social services hub that opened Oct. 1 in Brooklyn Center. But he also wants to ensure any Hopkins hub fits the county’s needs and the city’s needs.

If the county decides to put a hub in Hopkins, Maxwell hopes officials would listen to the city’s suggestions for how to make operations as smooth as possible.

“We can just ask the county to do certain things that we would like to see for things that might arise,” he said. “We can just put recommendations in. We can’t say we don’t want it here.”

Cummings said she understands the need to put social services somewhere—and even the advantages of putting facilities where people live. But she added that Hopkins is working hard on building a thriving business and retail climate in the downtown and questioned whether the Wells Fargo building was the best space for a social services hub.

“We’re pretty small, and that’s a big chunk of office space in our main downtown,” she said.

 

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