As Grandma’s Marathon marks the official start of summer and tourist season in Duluth, it seems timely to remind guests of our city that while Duluth has postcard-worthy views, it’s not a picture-perfect city.
Tourists should be advised to be cautious while visiting Duluth, but our city and tourism bureau offers no safety advice to visitors leaving them more susceptible to being a victim of a crime.
Two weeks ago, a man committed a robbery on the Lakewalk with a machete. The Duluth Police were able to pursue and arrest the suspect. Last week, in a Facebook post that has since been made private, a mother shared a terrifying story of a close call between her four-year-old daughter and a sex trafficker. While the family shopped on the sidewalk outside a store in Canal Park, the mom, with her three children by her side, two boys on one and her 4-year-old daughter on the other, noticed her daughter whisked away from her. A woman had rushed by them grabbing her daughter’s arm and pulled the girl into the store, making a beeline for the exit on the other end of the store. The horrified mother ran after her daughter screaming and making a scene until the woman let go of her daughter’s arm and ran out the far door. Had the mom not been in such close proximity to her daughter, the ending of this story could have been very different. Duluth has been a hotbed for sex trafficking for a while, with instances and close calls becoming more public over the last few years, but most visitors to Duluth have no way of knowing this.
Visitors to Duluth may also be surprised to find homeless people washing their laundry in the fountains at the corner of Lake and Superior Streets. Tourists may be terrified by “panhandlers” practicing their free speech by pounding on vehicle windows at stoplights begging for money. They may be grossed out by the hypodermic needles littering all the tourist hot spots, homeless people sleeping in public bathrooms, and then finding that the homeless are now using Duluth’s downtown sidewalks as their bathroom – with piles of excrement dotting downtown.
If Duluth wants to remain a tourist destination it must seriously consider the safety and comfort of those we invite here. We ask out-of-towners to spend a substantial amount of money in our town with the expectation that they will return again and again – but it won’t be long before Duluth’s dirty secrets of crime, trafficking, homeless encampments, and filth are leaked, and tourists will spend their hard-earned money elsewhere.
City leaders twiddle their thumbs and say through fake smiles that “it’s not so bad” and “it’s like this everywhere” while continuing to push the narrative that all of this is acceptable. Individuals, business owners, and others have asked for action and offered solutions that fall on deaf ears. What will it take for Mayor Larson to acknowledge that the city has deteriorated under her watch and that her policies and priorities are leaving the future of Duluth in jeopardy? What would she say to the mother whose daughter was nearly snatched in Canal Park? “All’s well that ends well”?
If she won’t say it, we will. Please be careful if you visit Duluth this summer. Have a hand on your children at all times. Be aware of your surroundings and the people near you. Do not use the brand new Lakewalk, but if you must, do not go alone – and be vigilant. Watch out for piles of human feces and hypodermic needles while walking around. And have a wonderful time.
Check back next week for a story on how our downtown streets have become a bathroom for the homeless.