Minnesota needs judges to put public safety first
Minneapolis needs more cops to help stem the explosion of violent crime in the city. But that will only do so much. There is very little point apprehending violent criminals…
Crime is surging in Minneapolis, that is not new. As a new article by the Star Tribune shows,
According to the most recent police statistics, the number of people shot citywide went up nearly 90% compared with the first half of last year, while homicides jumped from 22 to 40 in that same period. This year has seen violent crime arrests drop by about a third, with about 400 so far, compared with about 600 at this time last year.
From the look of things, however, politics and the focus on other public safety initiatives have dominated a more common-sense approach to violent crime –– increasing the number of police officers in the city.
Mayor Jacob Frey and other city leaders say they are focused on reducing crime during the summer months, deploying teams of violence intervention workers and bringing in outside law enforcement help to boost the depleted police force, down by one-third since George Floyd’s murder last year. Others worry that officials are going back on their pledge to radically reimagine public safety. The answer, they say, is funding affordable housing, health initiatives and other services supporting communities of color, not more cops.
Frey called a news conference in May to announce a new public safety plan that was sweeping in scope, if light on details. The following day, the two council members who represent most of north Minneapolis, Phillipe Cunningham and Jeremiah Ellison, held their own media event, urging the mayor to take a more aggressive approach to what they deemed a “crisis in our city.” A week later, Frey joined Ellison to discuss a proposed initiative that called for having unarmed “community safety specialists” patrol the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Noticeably missing from that event was Sasha Cotton, director of the city’s Office of Violence Prevention. Cotton declined to comment.
Generally, research shows that increased policing is a significant deterrent factor to crime. And more specifically, proactive policing goes a long way in reducing violent crime. But in the last year, Minneapolis has gone through significant changes that have reduced policing in the city. Currently, the Minneapolis Police Department is down 200 police officers, and new hirings haven’t picked up.
After Floyd’s death, Minneapolis became the epicenter of a movement to defund police in favor of a public health approach that could address the cycles of trauma that proponents say can lead to violence. Last December, the City Council voted to divert roughly $8 million from the Police Department’s $179 million budget to other services — $1.1 million of which went to expanding the MinneapolUS program, which sends “violence interrupters” to defuse conflicts. After months of training, the first group hit city streets in June.
While there is hardly a panacea for violent crime, pretending that a lack of enough policing is not the main issue facing Minneapolis is not going to help the city.
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