Admitting to the crime problem
From time to time, local Minnesota media will mention how deserted downtown Minneapolis has become. The local CBS affiliate, WCCO, ran a story today under the headline, ‘It’s Just a…
Last week, Hennepin County law enforcement leaders sent a letter to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman asking for immediate assistance and increased partnership across a range of criminal justice issues. The group’s central complaint was that violent criminals were not being held accountable for their actions following arrest. The letter lists several areas of focus for the prosecutor’s office to end the current dangerous trend, including the following:
Several law enforcement leaders echoed the concerns expressed in the letter. In an interview with a suburban newspaper, Minnetonka Police Chief Scott Boerboom noted the “lack of accountability for offenders,” which he attributed to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office policy changes that took effect last January, in which 19 “low level” crimes no longer required bail. Speaking to the same publication, Eden Prairie Mayor Ron Case described three crimes on the list as “problematic” contributing factors to the rise in vehicle-related crimes, which ultimately led to an increase in repeat offenders. The three crimes cited by Case included car theft, thefts under $35,000, and property damage (with no specified amount).
Plymouth Police Chief Erik Fadden provided an even starker example, citing a situation in which a suspect fled from officers in a stolen car after having been arrested 12 previous times. According to Chief Fadden, “We’re not sending a message to that person that would discourage them from committing the act again.” In other cases, Chief Fadden said that “Even when they have committed the crime, we’re finding times when the county attorney chooses not to charge a person.” Chief Fadden concluded by saying that “We’re not asking to be the sole decision-maker, rather, we are just asking for an opportunity to give our educated opinions on those decisions… We have not had that opportunity to date and feel that many of these decisions were made in a vacuum.”
Hennepin County Attorney’s Office media representative Wendy Burt explained that the crimes at issue in the bail reform initiative were developed in agreement by several other county attorneys and Attorney General Keith Ellison. Based on the interactions with these law enforcement leaders, it appears County Attorney Freeman and other prosecutors’ offices failed to properly coordinate blanket policy changes before implementing these decisions. Moreover, prosecutors should work more closely with their police counterparts and victims to ensure the ends of justice are served. Unilateral decisions not to prosecute violent offenders erodes public trust and leads to the perception that committing serious crimes in our community will go unpunished. Minnesotans deserve better.