Gambling on Innovation

Edina Police once used roulette wheels to stop crime.
The Village of Edina’s May 1962 newsletter touted the innovative random patrol operation.

In the early 1960s, the New York Police Department and others throughout the country visited the Village of Edina to learn about its revolutionary “random patrol” method.

The strategy was an experiment by the Edina Police Department in cooperation with the Indiana University Police Science Institute. At a time when many police departments assigned officers to a regular beat, the idea was to keep criminals guessing by making patrols unpredictable. A dispatcher would spin four small roulette wheels that determined where a crime was most likely to occur based on statistics and where officers would patrol next.

Random patrol was one of many innovations introduced by Edina Police Chief Wayne Bennett during a time of rapid growth. In preparation for Southdale Mall’s opening in 1956, the Village Council hired Bennett in 1955 to professionalize the department, and he quickly made Edina a leader in the law enforcement field. While many police chiefs during that era came to the job without advanced education, Bennett had a law degree and FBI training.

Although the roulette wheel didn’t last, other initiatives such as a police liaison in the schools and a community crime fund did. “We were known nationwide. We had a reputation as No. 1 in innovation in the entire state of Minnesota,” says retired officer Jim Crawford.