Puzzling Hennepin County gun crime prevention program proposes spending $10 million without any mention of the police

Like the weather, everyone in Minnesota is talking about the spike in gun violence. Unfortunately, few political leaders are doing anything meaningful about it. Enter Hennepin County Commission Board Chair Marion Greene. Under Greene’s leadership, the county board approved spending $5 million in federal pandemic funds for short-term violence intervention and expects to spend another $5 million to hire someone to coordinate violence reduction strategies. Missing from this package: a law enforcement-led, tough-on-crime approach to fight the spiraling epidemic of gun crime and take violent offenders off the streets.

Law enforcement professionals know that most gun crimes are committed by a handful of violent offenders. To confront this threat, Minnesota established over 20 specialized violent crime enforcement teams across the state. These teams, made up of highly skilled state, local, federal, and tribal sworn law enforcement officers, are uniquely positioned to take the worst of the worst off the streets. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office leads the Violent Offender Task Force, yet Commissioner Greene’s failure to incorporate this key resource — or any other law enforcement component — into her comprehensive crime prevention program misses the mark.

In June 2021, Greene allocated $5 million to her untested strategy centered on juveniles. Despite these measures, gun violence has continued to surge. In Hennepin County alone, homicides more than doubled over the past three years, from 67 in 2019, 109 in 2020, and 145 in 2021. In 2020 and 2021, the number of homicides committed with a firearm totaled 147.

Now, Commissioner Greene is asking the board to allocate another $5 million to create a coordinator position to manage ongoing violence reduction strategies and focus on reducing disparities. In doing so, she seems to be ignoring the sage advice of county law enforcement leaders who, in a letter to County Attorney Michael Freeman, said the following about the role of juveniles:

The current violent crime trend continues to include many juveniles. The current [Juvenile Detention Center] admission criteria is very restrictive. This typically leaves law enforcement to immediately release repeat juvenile criminal offenders to situations where there is no or inadequate supervision. This also leads to offenders not seeing a Judge in an appropriate timeframe to determine placement for them to ensure they are not back on the streets in a short time committing the same or more serious offenses.

There is no record of law enforcement officials at any level supporting the laundry list of spending priorities outlined by Commissioner Greene, nor any proof that these programs have made a dent on rising gun crime. Rather than spend another $5 million to coordinate violent crime reduction strategies, how about asking the Violent Offender Task Force to lead an aggressive crime control effort to take criminals off the streets? The extra money saved can be used to pay for overtime as deputies and police officers send more violent criminals to prison.