Police are investigating a string of sexual assaults at a homeless encampment in a Minneapolis park, according to various news reports.
Since June 26, Minneapolis Park Police have received three reports of sexual assault in Powderhorn Park, where more than 850 people have set up a 560-tent encampment, according to KARE 11. Two of the assaults involved juvenile victims.
The first assault occurred in the early morning hours of June 26 when a juvenile victim was assaulted and taken to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. As of Wednesday afternoon, no arrest had been made in the case.
The second incident took place on the morning of June 28. Minneapolis Park Police received a report of an adult female being assaulted at the park. Officers with the Minneapolis Police Department located and arrested the male suspect, FOX 9 reports.
A third assault took place on July 4 and was reported to Minneapolis police the following day. The case involved a female minor being assaulted by an adult male. The victim required hospitalization and the suspect is in custody.
All three assaults occurred after the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board passed a resolution June 17 allowing the city’s homeless population to seek “refuge” in public parks.
The resolution “allows those currently experiencing homelessness to seek refuge on Minneapolis parkland,” and requests assistance from federal and state agencies in finding a permanent housing solution.
An executive order issued by Gov. Tim Walz states that homeless encampments “should not be subject to sweeps or disbandment by state or local governments” for the duration of his COVID-19 peacetime emergency declaration.
However, if an encampment reaches a “size or status that is a documented threat to health, safety, or security of residents, state or local governments may restrict, limit, or close encampment spaces,” the order says.
In ordinary circumstances, people can’t stay in Minneapolis parks overnight and need a permit to set up a tent.
“We realize that this is not a permanent solution, so we are asking the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County and State of Minnesota to step up and find a sustainable, dignified housing solution for folks who are experiencing homelessness right now. In the meantime, we are not going to push people out of public spaces when they have nowhere else to go,” Park Board President Jono Cowgill said after the resolution was passed.
According to KARE 11, 15 911 incidents occurred in Powderhorn Park during the first half of June, compared to 45 incidents during the second half.
In a more recent statement, Cowgill said the encampments “will need to be reduced.”
“The size and scope is not sustainable,” he said. “Any of those moves need to be embedded in the strong community at Powderhorn. Neighbors and campers alike can and should help lead the way to dignified solutions.”
Certainly the encampments will need to be reduced. The size and scope is not sustainable. Any of those moves need to be embedded in the strong community at Powderhorn. Neighbors and campers alike can and should help lead the way to dignified solutions.
— Jono Cowgill (@JonoCowgill) June 25, 2020
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Powderhorn Park” by City of Minneapolis Archives. CC BY 2.0.