Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) spoke at a House Financial Services Committee Oversight Subcommittee Hearing titled “Thoughts and Prayers are Not Enough: How Mass Shootings Harm Communities, Local Economies and Economic Growth.”
At the hearing, Emmer directed his line of questioning to Brian Ingram, Chef and Owner of the Hope Breakfast Bar in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ingram, whose restaurants, employees, and customers have faced catastrophic levels of crime, was the only business owner on the witness panel who has first-hand experience trying to live and trying to operate a business in a nearly lawless environment. Democrats have normalized this lawlessness and demonized law enforcement, leaving residents in urban areas with unsafe communities.
You can watch Rep. Emmer's opening remarks here and his exchange with Brian Ingram here.
Congressman Emmer is the lead Republican on the Oversight Subcommittee. He invited Brian to participate in this hearing to share the first-hand experience he, his family, and his business have had with rising crime in the Twin Cities.
Businesses, small and large, are struggling from the impacts of the pandemic, labor shortages and now large-scale theft and looting. In a survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), twenty-seven percent of small businesses experienced an increase in the theft of products over the past two years.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), organized retail crime costs an average of $720,000 per $1 billion in sales, up more than 40% in the last five years. Retail crime hurts businesses in every state and the communities they serve. These crimes target employees, consumers and business owners who ultimately bear the cost of the theft, through increased insurance premiums and higher prices of goods.
Emmer: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you again to our witnesses for appearing before this committee.
Look, crime is running rampant across our country so it’s imperative that Congress focus on the serious, damaging impact that lawlessness has had on our communities. We must restore order.
As we examine the impact crime has had on local economies, we are grateful to Mr. Brian Ingram for joining us today from St. Paul, Minnesota – he is the only business owner on this witness panel who has first-hand experience trying to live and trying to operate a business in a nearly lawless environment. Catastrophic crime rates are not unique to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. It’s plaguing communities throughout the United States, from New York to San Francisco and cities in between.
Americans in urban areas face increases in carjackings, theft, burglaries, vandalism, and assault. This had led to a divestment in local economies because safety trumps all other priorities, and many people cannot safely run a business in such dangerous conditions. That divestment hits low-income communities the hardest.
So, how did we get here and why is crime running rampant across the United States? We locked down our citizens for a year, stripped them of in-person activities that help keep people out of a life of crime: school; extracurriculars; community engagement; and mental health resources. Then, Democrats championed a nationwide campaign against law enforcement, which has made the police force so politically unpopular that many communities, like St. Paul, Minnesota where Mr. Ingram lives and runs his businesses, don’t have enough sworn in law enforcement officials to protect the community. As we heard from Mr. Ingram, when residents call 911, it’s not uncommon to be told no one can help them.
Mr. Ingram: Can you please share with the Committee what changes you’ve had to make to your business to protect your employees, and customers from crime?
Ingram: Yeah, one of the things we have had to do, of course, is shortening our hours. Even bringing in our staff a little later, we have a breakfast restaurant that used to open at 6 am, and now we’ve pushed that back to 7 am just because we wanted it to be light out before our staff would come in. Our restaurants closing at 10 o'clock, we have a pub that would primarily do business late night, that is now closed. Security cameras, gosh, alarms systems, we have spent so much on those types of things and it doesn’t deter anybody. The safety stuff we have done is no deterrence.
Emmer: Do you have a number that you have spent? How much have these additional measures cost your business?
Ingram: Hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t know that I can even put a number on a number on the sales – we have two new restaurants, we are reinvesting, those restaurants we’re planning on not keeping open – that is going to lead into the millions of dollars until something changes in our city.
Emmer: And lastly, how have other businesses in your community reacted to the violence?
Ingram: So many of them are gone. And what you are seeing so much is that in minority parts of the city, restaurants are closing at a rapid pace, I believe it’s 1 in 3 now that are closing down and typically those are in areas that are underserved. We are seeing restaurants, we are seeing businesses close day in and day out and it continues to grow. Right now, in Minneapolis, it’s a ghost town when you drive through Minneapolis.
Emmer: And you’ve talked to many of these restaurateurs like yourself and are they experiencing similar issues?
Ingram: Yeah, and I believe all of us, and I mean you could own a yarn store across the street from us, we’ve seen it, they’ve been robbed. Little mailbox etc., it’s across the board and there is no business, we thought were being targeted, we had seven robberies within a year and thought we were being targeted. We went out to our neighborhoods, “nope I got robbed yesterday”, “no, I got robbed the day before” and no one seems to want to share that message and talk about it.
Emmer: Well, thank you for doing it. These catastrophic levels of crime across this country have made people afraid to go to work, to eat out with their families, to park their cars on the street, and simply just to be outside when it’s dark. This is no way to live. But let’s be very clear: Democrats have normalized this lawlessness and demonized law enforcement. As a result, law enforcement in many of these urban areas like the Twin Cities don’t have the resources they need to keep people safe. When residents call 911 for help, they are often told no one can come out.
Mr. Ingram, thank you for your time today. As Democrats have politicized safety and championed the destructive Defund the Police movement, your perspective is invaluable as a business owner doing your best to support your community.
I yield back.