Violent crime in St. Paul was up 25% in 2020

Two days before Christmas, a two year old child died after being struck by a bullet on the 800 block of Rice Street in St. Paul. This was the city’s 34th homicide in 2020.

Preliminary year-end crime statistics, released by St. Paul police yesterday, showed that this was part of a broader problem: violent crime is well up across the board. As the Pioneer Press reported:

…serious crime also was on the rise in St. Paul last year — it was up 15.5 percent compared with 2019, according to police.

Violent crime increased nearly 25 percent from the year before. Property crime rose by 14 percent.

Gun violence has been a continuing concern. Twenty-eight of the 34 homicide victims in St. Paul last year were shot. There were 192 people wounded in non-fatal shootings, compared with 137 in 2019.

The only major crime categories that saw reductions in St. Paul last year were residential burglary and rape. The numbers, based on preliminary reports about 2020, were:

  • Robberies: 716, compared with 542 in 2019. [up 32%]
  • Rapes: 196, compared with 236 in 2019. [down 17%]
  • Aggravated assaults: 1,246, compared with 946 in 2019. [up 32%]
  • Commercial burglaries: 776, compared with 455 in 2019. [up 70%]
  • Residential burglaries: 1,503, compared with 1,583 in 2019. [down 5%]
  • Auto thefts: 2,774, compared with 2,419 in 2019. [up 15%]
  • Thefts: 7,656, compared with 6,751 in 2019. [up 13%]
  • Arsons: 210, compared with 118 in 2019. [up 78%]

To put those 34 homicides into context:

With 34 homicides, St. Paul matched the city’s previous record set in 1992. There were 30 homicides in St. Paul in 2019, almost double the year before. In the preceding 20 years, the average was 16 homicides a year.

The story is much the same in Minneapolis. As the Washington Post reported in November:

Homicides in Minneapolis are up 50 percent, with nearly 75 people killed across the city so far this year. More than 500 people have been shot, the highest number in more than a decade and twice as many as in 2019. And there have been more than 4,600 violent crimes — including hundreds of carjackings and robberies — a five-year high.

This is a crisis. As of January 7th, 41 Minnesotans aged under 40 have died from Covid-19. By contrast, at least 88 Minnesotans aged under 40 have been murdered since the state recorded its first Covid-19 death on March 21st. As parties release their lists of priorities for the 2021 legislative session in St. Paul, any that don’t include tackling rising crime have some serious questions to answer.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.