Proactive policing and aggressive prosecution — a winning combination

There is no better way to combat crime than through swift and sure apprehension of offenders, timely prosecution of defendants, and the incapacitation of those awaiting trial or convicted of crimes. The message this sends to those inclined to prey on the law-abiding is clear and persuasive. 

One can point to the existence of this effective combination throughout history — and draw the connection between it and a reduction in crime. The most famous example is NYC going from chaos in the 70s and 80s to relative peace in the 90s and 2000s as they employed a “broken window theory” response to crime.

We saw much the same results in the Twin Cities in the 90s and 2000s after our own concerted effort to crack down on crime and violence, which had resulted in the New York Times giving us the moniker “Murderapolis” in the mid-1990s.

Unfortunately, those lessons are forgotten or ignored, repeatedly, as progressive-minded policymakers respond with cries of “over-incarceration,” “profiling,” and the need for “reform.” Almost cyclically, they implement policies that move away from what so clearly worked.

Such has been the case in Minneapolis since the late 2010s, when leaders began pushing for more progressive means of dealing with crime. City leadership began devaluing and undermining their police officers. This created a sizeable amount of fuel that ignited after the death of George Floyd in 2020. It became fashionable and even politically advantageous to turn one’s back on the police. We all know how that worked out — law enforcement recruitment and retention fell into a crisis state, and criminals became emboldened like no time in recent memory. As a result, random and pervasive violence and lawlessness has become the norm.

It is encouraging that in this dire situation, Minneapolis has had the good sense to once again grab for the tools that can restore order — aggressive, proactive law enforcement. Minneapolis has put into play two major initiatives: Operation Endeavor in 2022, and the Greater Minneapolis Violent Crime Initiative in 2023. Both have at their core aggressive, proactive law enforcement and a connection to dedicated and purposeful prosecution.

Couple these initiatives with the actions of our District of Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andy Lugar, who last year began federally prosecuting a great many carjackings, and recently announced the prosecution of some 45 senior gang members in the Twin Cities, and we have the makings of an effective combination — one that is manifesting in downward trends for murder, carjackings, gunshot victims, and robberies. U.S. Attorney Luger has demonstrated what leadership is. We should hope others are learning from his example.

The county attorney’s office has even taken a slightly more aggressive stance in the face of an explosion of auto thefts in Minneapolis (nearly 25 stolen cars/day — many of which have involved juveniles and have ended in wild high-speed chases and crashes as the thieves have no fear of consequences). The office just committed to charging auto theft cases in under five days, which is an improvement over traditional weeks or months. There is a long way to go with that office and County Attorney Mary Moriarty, but when the office does something positive, it should be recognized.

History has taught us the value of swift and sure punishment in achieving law, order, and peace.

History has also taught us the value of addressing societal and cultural shortcomings which often fuel criminal offending — the progressive approach. However, there is little hope in successfully addressing these larger issues in an environment of chaos and lawlessness. We must strongly and consistently value law and order first, to provide a safe and secure environment for these deeper societal endeavors to succeed. Interestingly, and maybe even encouragingly, some local progressives are quietly beginning to acknowledge this.

Minneapolis has a long way to go in terms of public safety. Some of the plans for encouraging masses of people downtown on the weekend nights seem premature given the chaos and lawlessness that are still commonplace throughout town. But the newfound appreciation for proactive law enforcement is a promising development in a town that has shown little promise for several years.

Time will tell how earnest this appreciation is.