Hennepin County’s Board literally ignores crime in “State of the County” address

Hennepin County held its annual “State of the County” address on Wednesday morning. The challenges the Board identified were climate change, housing, business and employment — all with an umbrella theme of racial inequity. Crime and public safety were completely omitted from the address.

The address was given by County Board Chair Marion Greene (District 3 representing Minneapolis and St. Louis Park), who thanked her parents for making the “trek from New Hampshire” to attend. Guests in attendance included County Attorney Michael Freeman, who the Board just authorized a $190,000 settlement against due to an intra-office discrimination suit. Guests not in attendance included the County Sheriff, David Hutchinson, who is on personal leave for the remainder of his term stemming from his alcohol-related crash in a county vehicle. All these leaders were elected on the promise of progressive platforms. Sensing a disconnect?

A review of the address and of reporting from the Star Tribune clearly shows the Hennepin County Board is either ignorant of, or arrogant towards, the unacceptable level of crime in Hennepin County. By continuing to ignore crime, literally, Hennepin County’s Board demonstrates a complete lack of seriousness. Without public safety, we have nothing.  Without leadership willing to acknowledge that, our future is bleak.

A serious body of leadership would have identified violent crime as a significant challenge and offered clear strategies to address the challenge.

Minneapolis, the county seat, is on pace to record over 10,000 shots fired. Armed car jackings were up 65% to a staggering 640 in 2021. Car jackings in Edina, Plymouth, Golden Valley and throughout the county are becoming all too common. Murders, aggravated assaults, robberies and other violence are up significantly throughout the county.

Citizens of Minneapolis recently had to sue the city just to ensure it maintains the proportion of police officers promised to the citizens in the City Charter. The police department is several hundred officers below its mandate, and the plan to hire enough officers to be effective is fraught with challenges. Minneapolis isn’t the only city in the county facing this issue.  Golden Valley, for example, sits at a 50% vacancy rate and has only 16 officers left on its force. 

A drive down Lake Street or South Chicago Avenue provides ample evidence of what “progressive” leadership has given us. A burned-out police precinct sits vacant some two years after rioters were allowed to torch it. Just down the block is an absolute embarrassment, and one of the more dangerous places in the County: the Lake Street light rail station. This is a location where predators, drug addicts, and the homeless reign. This station is the site of almost daily overdoses, crimes of violence, mounds of garbage, and graffiti. It is one of the more unwelcoming places in our county. 

Just a few blocks to the south is “George Floyd Square,” which used be a vital street running through a community business area. It is now our version of an “autonomous zone.” A prominent company virtually walked away from its property in the square, because the city walked away from its obligations to provide for public safety. The building has been the site of significant crimes including car jackings, kidnappings, and drug overdoses. The MTC bus shelter has been taken over as a pseudo “take an item leave an item” closet. Quaint.

A poignant example of the impact a lack of public safety can have on a community was born out recently with our Minnesota Twins. The first-place Twins hosted the New York Yankees for a 3-game home stand at Target Field in downtown Minneapolis. This series is historically a lock as a sell-out. During what was a beautiful spring week weather-wise, the paid attendance averaged nearly 12,000 below capacity — and for those in attendance, the empty seats were stark. Something has changed. Our leadership is broken.

We must remain optimistic for our future, but it is a “challenge” when our leadership either isn’t capable of or isn’t willing to be serious about the real challenges we face.