The demographics of crime in Minnesota

is perhaps the most taboo subject in the state. The reality is that much of the state’s crime is committed by a handful of repeat offenders. This group is simply too small to draw any larger demographic conclusions.

Minnesota is in the midst of a crime epidemic. It is also in the midst of an epidemic of finger-pointing and recriminations as to who is to blame.

As it happens, the state government collects comprehensive data on who is committing crime and who the victims are.

The most recent data available (2020) show a significant increase in violent crime in the state:

Source: MN BCA

Murders were up in 2020 by 58 percent over 2019. Reported robberies and aggravated assaults were also up, reported rapes were down.

Focusing just on murders (criminal homicide), there were 185 recorded statewide in Minnesota in 2020. Victim breakdowns were as follows:

Source: MN BCA

Of the 175 victims where the race is known, 107 were African American, or 61 percent of the total.

According to data collected by the U.S. Census bureau (2019), 8.3 percent of the population is classified as African-American (including those of more than one race). In other words, in 2020, African Americans were 7 times more likely to be victims of murder than their share of the population would represent.

A similar story is told with murder offenders. A total of 257 offenders are included in the state’s database for 2020 (keeping in mind that a single crime can have more than one perpetrator). Of those 257, a race was recorded for 189.

Source: MN BCA

Of the offenders where race information is known, 125 were African American, or 66 percent of the known total. As with victims, offenders are represented at a rate almost 8 times the share of the general population.

Keep in mind how vanishingly small these numbers are. As devasting as the individual events are for families and communities, the total numbers represent a tiny fraction of the state’s population of 5.6 million.

Broadening the scope to cover arrests for all crimes, there were a little under 120,000 arrests made in Minnesota in 2020 (BCA report, page 56). Without even accounting for multiple offenders, within any community in Minnesota, the numbers involved are a small fraction of the total population.

Of the arrests made, 63 percent included persons under the age of 35. Of the arrests made, 72 percent were male. The median age in Minnesota is 38.3.

Crime, for the most part, is a young man’s game.

As the Center has previously reported, much of the crime surge can be linked to Minnesota’s revolving-door justice system. The same handful of criminals are responsible for a significant portion of the state’s criminal activity.

Going after repeat offenders will address a disproportionate share of the crime problem. Given the small size of this group, it is simply too tiny to draw conclusions about the general population or any community within that population.

However, those advocating either for or against a get-tough approach to crime must be prepared for fact that same small handful of offenders and their victims will not neatly match the state’s demographic profile.