On August 1 2020, Daily Caller writer Kyle Hooten shared the following screenshot claiming that a defunded Third Precinct in Minneapolis instructed residents to simply hand valuables over to criminals due to an uptick in crime:
Minneapolis City Government tells residents to be ready to give up their phones and wallets and to always cooperate with criminals: pic.twitter.com/qQhw4YLRSY
— Kyle Hooten (@KyleHooten2) August 1, 2020
One day later, podcaster Ben Ferguson shared the notification, adding additional flair:
AFTER DEFUNDING THE POLICE, MINNEAPOLIS HAS TURNED OVER THEIR CITY TO CRIMINALS. THIS IS A REAL NOTICE: HORRIFYING
The original screenshot read:
Attention 3rd Precinct Residents — July 28, 2020
100 Robberies and 20 Carjackings have been reported to the 3rd Precinct Police in July alone. Downtown and Southwest Minneapolis have seen an increase as well. We want those who live and work here to be safe!
Robbery Prevention Tips:
- Do not walk alone
- Be hyper-aware of your surroundings at all times — pay attention!
- Carry only items you need and carry less cash
- Be prepared to give up your cell phone and purse/wallet
- Have keys already in your hand as you approach your car
- Despite all our efforts, robberies may still occur! Do not argue or fight with the criminal Do as they say. Your safety is most important!
- Be a good witness. When you call 911, be prepared to answer many questions. How many suspects? Age, height, complexion, hair and eye color? Scars or tattoos? Weapon- what did it look like? What direction did they leave in? Vehicle description?
A July 28 2020 Email to Minneapolis’ Third Precinct Residents
It appeared Hooten was the sole source for the email, which did not seem to be available on any of Minneapolis’ official government sites. Hooten wrote in an August 1 2020 post that he had obtained the email, but added no additional information about the source. However, we were able to track down a local news story that contained some of the same information about an uptick in crime in certain areas around the city:
Minneapolis police on Tuesday reported a recent increase in robberies and carjackings in the Third and Fifth Precinct areas.
According to police, suspects are targeting cellphones, purses and vehicles. Some victims have been maced, dragged, assaulted and some threatened with a gun, police said.
The department said most of the incidents have occurred north of 42nd Street E.
In July alone, 100 robberies and 20 carjackings have been reported to Third Precinct police.
The precinct said downtown and southwest Minneapolis have also seen an increase.
We were also able to obtain an email received by a resident of Minneapolis’ Third Precinct, presumably as part of the same alert system. It did not resemble the one shared by Hooten:
On July 28 2020, a non-official “crime watch” page for Minneapolis residents on Facebook shared yet another version of the purported warning — in a slightly different iteration that included typographical errors:
We were unable to verify the authenticity of that email.
‘After Defunding the Police, Minneapolis Has Turned Over Their City to Criminals’
On June 26 2020, NPR reported that the City of Minneapolis voted to “eliminate” the police department:
The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously approved a proposal to eliminate the city’s police department, marking the first step toward establishing a new “holistic” approach to public safety.
However, the same article went on to report that the vote was preliminary:
Under the proposed plan, the city would eliminate the existing police department and replace it with “a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.”
The department would be overseen by a director, nominated by the mayor and approved by the City Council. Only individuals with “non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches,” will be eligible to hold the post, according to the amendment.
Despite unanimous support [on June 26 2020], the amendment faces a number of bureaucratic obstacles before voters can vote on it in November .
At that point, the decision represented a “proposed plan,” pending a vote in November 2020. On July 9 2020, MinnPost.com examined the implications of the vote:
What we know (and don’t know) so far about the effort to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department
A united message — a rarity for the group — emerged from the Minneapolis City Council in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death: It’s time to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department.
It’s a powerful statement. For many, it’s also unclear exactly what it means.
Uncertainty, argue some council members, is baked into the proposition of creating a new public safety system. Even so, during its June 26 meeting, the council voted to send a proposal to the Minneapolis Charter Commission that would amend the city’s charter — essentially, its constitution — to allow for the dismantling of the police department.
It’s the first step in the process of giving Minneapolis voters a say by putting the amendment on the ballot this November , a timetable that would hurry the usual process for amending the city charter. And on [July 1 2020], the desire to move quickly was greeted with intense questioning during a meeting of the city’s charter commission, with commissioners echoing Mayor Jacob Frey’s concern that the plan is too vague about what comes next.
On August 2 2020, the vote was mentioned in passing by NBC News. Once again, the City’s vote was described in somewhat nebulous terms:
Amid the national protests about racial injustice and policing, the once-extreme demand to “defund the police” has gained traction, with Minneapolis taking steps to remake its police department and other cities, like New York City, pledging to shift some funding away from the police and instead use that money for social services.
Although the Minneapolis City Council voted on June 26 2020 to “eliminate the city’s police department,” it remained unclear how the vote would actually affect funding the city’s police or other services as of late July and early August 2020.
Are Minneapolis Police Now Recommending Citizens Capitulate and Surrender Valuables to Criminals?
Based on the posts embedded above, it was clear that many social media users inferred that the events of May, June, and July 2020 led police in Minneapolis to amend their advice to citizens about crime prevention.
It is further true that advice reflecting that of the purported email was visible to anyone who visited MinneapolisMN.gov’s “Crime Prevention” resources page. Under “Robbery/Theft Prevention” were the following tips:
- Carry only what you need.
- Do not take large amounts of cash or unnecessary personal items with you.
- Be extra cautious about your surroundings. Trust your instincts. Be aware of strangers loitering in your area.
- Call 911 to report suspicious activity.
- Don’t get distracted! Cell phones, iPhones and other electronics can be a distraction to you and could draw the attention of someone who wants to take them from you.
- Be on the lookout. Call 9-1-1 for any suspicious activity such as strangers walking in yards or between houses, the sound of glass breaking or loud banging, and unfamiliar trucks or vans lingering in your alley. Talk to your neighbors about what you’ve seen and ask them to be alert to suspicious activity.
- If you are confronted, stay calm and cooperate. Your life is worth more than your money or phone!
- If you are a victim of robbery, immediately call 911. Try to report as much suspect information as you can.
Clearly, police in Minneapolis advised residents to cooperate with criminals during an attempted robbery, advising that “your life is worth more than your money or phone.” That advice was visible on the above-linked page on August 3 2020.
That advice also had nothing to do with any events in May, June, or July 2020. We know this, because a version of the page archived in October 2019 provided identical advice.
A number of social media posts asserted that after Minneapolis “defunded” its police, the Third Precinct advised residents to surrender valuables to criminals as a consequence. That claim was dishonest, predicated on half-truths and out-of-context information. Although the city did vote to re-allocate funding from police in June 2020, we found no evidence that any “defunding” had yet occurred in July or August 2020. We were unable to locate a copy of the email, but portions of the crime prevention advice have remained unchanged since at least October 2019.