April 15, 2007

Getting Your Hands on Public Records

Getting your hand on public record can be both tiring, time consuming and expensive. That was my experience for journalism 3101 assignment for this week.The assignment required a contact with either a police station, local city council, state or federal government or some agency.
I googled "Minneapolis Police." When I called 612 673 2808, I was told to go to 350 South 5th street, Room 31 Criminal History.There, I will read through the daily reports and select the two crime-incident reports I needed. "Yoy pay 25 cents a page," the receptionist said. I hung up and drove there. After circling around for 30 minutes looking for parking place without luck, I found a parking spot near the Library between Hennepin and 3rd Street South. I put $1.50 in the meter and walked over to the 350 South 5th Street address.

In the basement of 350 South 5th Street, I walked in Room 31. I was not happy with what I found and could not found. I need any crime-incident report that dealing with homeless people. From the first few pages I had read, it seemed unlikely there was any such report. I asked if there were cases or incidents of homeless people been arrested for any reason. "I really don't know, " came the answer. But who would know? I asked. Again he told me he was there only to retrieve reports that requested. Things were not going the way I expected and I needed to get back for Lab.
I selected two burglary entries. I walked out holding a three-page report for two crimes not really related to what I wanted. Besides, there was nothing extraordinary about the reports that I carryied. No arrest was made in either case but a car was impounded. I would try the second option.

I checked the Brooklyn Park City Council web page and found the complete aganda packets. Though it was not really What I needed, this information was newsworthy and somehow related to the feature I want to work on. The 79-page document discusses the decline in property values in the Brooklyn Park area. Many property owners in the area are not happy with the 2.2 percent growth for the properties for the 2007 assessment.
The report, compiled by the City Assessor, will be discussed by the Brooklyn Park City Council on April 16, 2007 at 7:00 p.m. I spent $7.90 forfull report.
I do not think the process of retrieving public information will be easily understood by average citizens. I don't think many people care about the either.

Minneapolis Police Department (Criminal History)

Tel: 612 673 2808

Brooklyn Park City Councy (Assessing)

Tel: 763 493 8173