(CNN) — A series of brutal assaults in downtown Minneapolis is highlighting the city’s skyrocketing robbery rate amid a critical shortage of police officers.
More than 6,000 “priority one” 911 calls, which include sexual assault, shootings and robberies, were made in the period of a year for which police didn’t have an officer immediately able to respond, Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said in an email to CNN.
“Those calls did not get immediately dispatch police resources because we did not have staff available to respond,” Elder said.
Robbery is up almost 54% in downtown Minneapolis from last year, police said.
Police have several videos of the recent rash of vicious attacks. In one them obtained by CNN, a group of suspects is seen on surveillance videos repeatedly punching and kicking a man in a daytime attack outside Target Field. At various points in the video, they run and jump on him, they ride over him with a bicycle, take off his shoes and pants, beat him with a belt and throw what appears to be potted plants at him.
In another surveillance video, the suspects start grabbing a man and repeatedly punching him and kicking him as he tries to fight back. The group leaves him, apparently unconscious, on the ground.
One person has been charged in both crimes so far, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office said in a release Monday.
After 23 robberies in a single week in August, police conducted a three-day sweep in downtown which led to 16 arrests, Elder said Monday.
The city’s population has grown by almost 50,000 people since 2010, while the number of officers has “remained stagnant,” Mayor Jacob Frey said in his 2020 budget address that proposed adding 14 officers.
“(T)his past decade, they have been responsible for doing more with less,” the mayor said in the address.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo had called for adding 400 officers by 2025, CNN affiliate WCCO reported, but the mayor reportedly said it’s not doable because of the budget.
The pool of applicants is also smaller than it used to be, said Bob Kroll, president of the Minnesota Police Officers Union, who estimates applicants are about one-fifth the number they were around 30 years ago.
“We’re gonna get smaller, before we get any bigger,” Kroll said.
There’s still plenty of people that “want to be Minneapolis cops,” but the decrease “certainly” plays into the recent robbery events, Elder told CNN.
The 16 suspects were arrested in connection to multiple robberies that occurred within blocks of each other over a four-week period, according Elder.
Robbery numbers were “down to three” the week following the police sweep, according to Elder.
The suspects were looking for an easy target, such as someone who was intoxicated and alone, looking at their cellphone at times, police said.
The suspects arrested are between the ages of 13 and 25, and mainly male, though “sometimes a female is in the group,” according to charging documents.