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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Monday May 20th 2024

Conversation with Kali Pliego, Crime Prevention Specialist Extraordinaire

By MARY ELLEN KALUZA and KALI PLIEGO

I met Kali for the first time in 2020 after a series of break-ins. I didn’t know what to expect from a “Crime Prevention Specialist”. I was wary, having heard, “Why don’t you move?” too many times over the years. But Kali was kind, empathetic, helpful and enjoyable to talk with. She has also been a generous contributor to the alley in recent years in her position. I thought we all needed to know Kali better, hence this email interview.

Credit: Katie Jennings

Mary Ellen Kaluza: Your job title is Crime Prevention Specialist. Tell us what a Crime Prevention Specialist does?
Kali Pliego: Crime Prevention Specialist is a public education role, with a focus of the education being how to not be a victim of crime. There are so many ways this is borne out through our work. The most common services are updating neighborhood groups on crime trends, giving personal safety presentations, conducting home or business security checks, etc. We also respond to direct questions as well as complaints about suspicious activity that come through Minneapolis 311.
The other major area of our work is managing a system of block leaders. We recruit, train, and support block leaders as they organize their block clubs. This is my favorite part of the job, and the effort which I believe makes the biggest difference in long term crime prevention.

MEK: How long has Crime Prevention been part of the Mpls Police Dept? Are there Crime Prevention Specialists in all Minneapolis communities?
KP: Crime Prevention Specialists have been a part of MPD since 1987– 37 years! We used to be CCP/SAFE, and now just Crime Prevention.
We are geographically assigned to sectors within the five police precincts—there are at least two Crime Prevention Specialists in each precinct.

MEK: How long have you been in your position in the 3rd precinct? What part of the precinct do you serve?
KP: I started as a Crime Prevention Specialist in May of 2019. From day one, I have served the Phillips neighborhoods, which is a shorthand way of saying Phillips West, Midtown Phillips, East Phillips, and Ventura Village neighborhoods.

MEK: You live very close to the area you serve. Does that help or hinder the work you do? Can you give an example?
KP: Yes, I live in the Central neighborhood. Living nearby to the community I serve is more positive than negative. I think it helps with my credibility. It certainly helps with my ability to empathize when people come to me about their concerns—because it is not a big stretch to imagine myself in their shoes.
I am a friendly outgoing connector, so of course I love it when I run into my Phillips friends when I’m just living life! This happens a lot at Lake Street businesses and community events!
The negative is it can be hard to turn off work mode.

MEK: What keeps you living in the area – what do you like about living on the Southside?
KP: My husband and I took advantage of the first-time home buyer tax credit in 2009. We had been living in an apartment in Bloomington (the city), and told our realtor that our top priority for the home search was proximity to E Lake St. There weren’t a lot of homes that we could afford in the area but found the perfect home for us! We don’t plan on leaving!
We love the feel of Lake St—it feels alive to us, and we are both grateful and proud to be part of the community that gives it life!

MEK: What do you enjoy the most about your job?
KP: Hands down, the people! I get so excited when I meet new community members and hear about what life is like for them in the neighborhood. I also love connecting with my CPS colleagues, 3rd precinct officers, investigators, and MPD leadership. All around, I work with great people, and I love coming in each day!


MEK: What frustrates you the most about your job?
KP: I’m going to change “frustrates” to “challenges” in that question.
I am challenged by my own and others’ reliance upon conventional solutions to problems that have persisted over many years. I think we ask ourselves the wrong question at times. For example, instead of “how do we make X problem go away?” we could ask “how can we utilize our strengths to deal with X problem?” I am also challenged to be the type of person who is a force for healing in the community. I have a whiteboard on my desk that asks that question—“what heals?”


MEK: What are your top three crime prevention tips?
KP: #1 – Never take your safety for granted. Have a plan to keep yourself (and things) safe and follow it.

2 – Lock your doors! So many crimes of opportunity start with unlocked doors.

3 – Be a good witness. Take ownership of your neighborhood and be a caretaker of your community. Report crimes and suspicious activity.

Take advantage of Kali’s expertise, or of the CPS in your neighborhood, to help make all of our Minneapolis neighborhoods a good place to live. Contact Kali at kali.pliego@minneapolismn.go; 612-673-3482. Readers in other neighborhoods can find their CPS information at https://www.minneapolismn.gov/government/departments/police/cps/#d.en.130001.

Mary Ellen Kaluza, has lived off of Franklin Avenue for going on five decades and plans to stay here.

Kali Pliego serves the Phillips community and lives a stone’s throw from East Lake Street. She is quite fond of both sides of Lake Street.

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