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Vibrant and Safe Downtown - Working to Create a Better Downtown For All of Us

Article by Claudia Kittock

We live downtown. It is an exciting and interesting place to live, full of energy and activity. There are always things to do and choices to make. It is never boring, but like all cities sometimes there are concerns about safety. Can I do what I want to do when I want to do it and feel safe?           

Safety in an urban setting is always a high priority, and in 2018 it is a collaborative effort. During a recent conversation with Mpls Downtown Improvement District(DID) director of safety initiatives Shane Zahn, I learned just how multi-faceted it is. Shane began working with Vibrant and Safe Downtown,  previously known as the Minneapolis SafeZone Collaborative, in 2007, partnering with Minneapolis Police 1st Precinct downtown. Shane, who worked with Target at the time, began collaborating with the police department to work on safety concerns. After two years on loan from Target to run Vibrant and Safe Downtown, Shane joined the DID staff in 2009 to continue this work, and today remains a leader in downtown safety and collaboration.

Vibrant and Safe Downtown is a wholly-owned, 501c3 subsidiary of the DID. Its focus is building collaborations to ensure a safe and vital downtown community by bringing public, private and non-profit entities together through key initiatives, including connecting public-private radio and camera networks, partnering with social outreach teams and much more. Part of that strategy is helping with programming in the downtown area that will provide opportunities for the community to gather. The intent is to add creative activities throughout the city as a way to decrease violence.

One of the resources available to Vibrant and Safe Downtown is the DID Safety Communications Center. Located within the Minneapolis Police First Precinct, the Safety Communications Center serves as a downtown safety information hub. Part of its work is to dispatch DID Ambassadors, responding to pedestrian requests from Ambassadors on the street, tracking weather and emergency alerts, communicating with outreach services for people in need, monitoring public area cameras and collaborating with private security.

Dispatch Ambassadors staff at the Safety Communications Center 

The DID Safety Communications Center is a resource available for day-to-day needs as well as a major asset for overseeing big downtown events like Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 2014, the Super Bowl in 2018, the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2019 and NCAA women’s basketball Final Four in 2022. Through RadioLINK, for example, the Safety Communications Center is connected to approximately 65 buildings downtown. Last year alone, DID Ambassadors made more than 89,000 pedestrian assists - many of which are coordinated through the Safety Communications Center.

For programming, the DID and Vibrant and Safe Downtown collaborate with organizations to help bring initiatives like the mpls downtown council’s Pianos on Parade program, which places pianos throughout downtown, including the Mill District. Who hasn’t been moved by beautiful piano music reverberating through the downtown streets?

RadioLINK brings the private and public security partnership to life. The radio equipment is coordinated through the City of Minneapolis’ Radio Communications Electronics department and is a valuable tool in expanding law enforcement’s reach. There are an estimated 13 private security officers for every one law enforcement officer in downtown. The DID Safety Communications Center serves as the central point of the RadioLINK system and it connects officers directly with private security teams and outreach teams via a common radio channel.

Collaborations with social service organizations is another way that DID and Vibrant and Safe Downtown work to enhance a livable downtown for all. DID Livability Team supervisor Joseph Desenclos came to DID from 15 years as Outreach Director at St. Stephen’s. Everyone knows Joseph, and he knows everyone. His incredible skills and knowledge make him the perfect person to head up the outreach portion of the DID Ambassador operations. Joseph is joined by partnerships with the outreach teams from YouthLink and St. Stephen’s.

How can you help to be part of the work done by Vibrant and Safe Downtown?
1. Donate to Vibrant and Safe Downtown.
2. Want more information on DID and Vibrant and Safe Downtown or how to get involved? Email

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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